The economy has generated enough private-sector jobs to replace all those lost during the recession, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department.
That was the headline news in an otherwise solid, but unremarkable, report. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent, and payroll jobs were up by 192,000 in March.
In March, private-sector, nongovernmental jobs edged just above 116 million. Such jobs numbered just below 116 million when the recession began in December 2007. At the worst point after the economy faltered, in February 2010, that number had dropped to just below 107.2 million.
Some of the growth has yielded jobs for the members of Steamfitters Local 420. In 2010 and 2011, 35 percent to 40 percent of the union's working members were unemployed.
"It's been very good since the mid-summer," the local's president, James Snell, said at a construction seminar Thursday sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Unemployment among his members is minimal, Snell said. "It's all attributable to the refineries."
In its report Friday, the Labor Department noted increases in all major job sectors except manufacturing, which edged down slightly. Government hiring, which with the exception of February had been declining for months, was flat.
Ernest "Ernie" Cecilia, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust Co., said the report was a good one.
"My bigger concern was that it was going to be a weak report," Cecilia said. "Everything had been held up because of the winter. Now, it's the time to show that [weak conditions] really were temporary. The markets gave the economy a pass during the winter months."
More complicated were the unemployment figures. The number of unemployed rose in March, as it has monthly since the start of year, edging closer to 10.5 million, but down from 11.7 million a year ago.
More than one in three unemployed people, 35.8 percent, have been out of work for more than 27 weeks, although that percentage has declined from 39.1 percent in March 2013.
Those numbers have prompted advocates for the unemployed to push for an extension of emergency jobless benefits - the extra, federally funded benefits that came to an end in December, leaving 2.3 million people without assistance.
Those who lose their jobs now can expect to receive only 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment benefits, compared with the total of 63 weeks available before Congress cut the benefits.
A Senate vote to pay benefits, retroactive to Jan. 1, is expected next week. That extension would expire May 31. The measure faces an uphill battle in the House.
The argument against extending the benefits will likely become stronger in the next three months. By that time, it is likely the nation's economy will have generated enough jobs - 422,000 more are needed - to make up for all private- and public-sector jobs lost during the recession.
However, even regaining all the jobs lost will not wipe out the jobs deficit caused by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. That's because the nation's working-age population has grown since the start of the recession in December 2007 but the nation's payrolls have not kept up with the demand for jobs.
To keep pace, the economy would have had to create an additional 100,000 jobs a month, or 7.6 million more jobs, since the start of the recession.
Mark Edwards of Philadelphia Works talks about connecting those who need jobs with those who seek employees. The Leadership Agenda, in Business.