Jobs growth picked up in March as weather problems faded, but there is still no sign of any meaningful acceleration in the economy's growth fundamentals, which remain in a 2-3% range. If there was anything noteworthy in today's employment report, it was the 1.3 million year-to-date increase in the labor force.
As the chart above shows, the number of private sector jobs hit a new all-time high in March. The private sector has finally finished recovering from the Great Recession and is now moving on to new highs. Since the post-recession low in early 2010, the private sector has created almost 9 million jobs.
As the chart above shows, private sector jobs have been growing at about a 2% annual pace for the past three years. That is roughly equivalent to 200K jobs per month. Given that the weather was still unusually cold in March, but jobs growth was close to "normal," it could be the case that underlying conditions in the labor market are actually improving. If so, we should see the evidence of that in coming months.
After five years of unusually slow growth, there are signs that the labor force (the total of those working and those looking for work) is once again growing. Over the past six months, the labor force has grown at a 1% annual pace, which is the long-term average growth rate. The labor force grew by 1.29 million people since December, and that is so close to the 1.35 million that lost their emergency unemployment benefits beginning January 1, 2014 that it is unlikely to be a pure coincidence. Many of those who who had been receiving unemployment checks for up to one year may have decided to renew their efforts to find a job.
So although March job gains were average, it is possible that underlying conditions in the labor market are improving on the margin. In the meantime, 9 million new jobs is nothing to disdain.