Private-sector job growth looks strong, exceeds expectations

PRIVATE-SECTOR JOB GROWTH LOOKS STRONG, EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS…. In the previous post, we talked about the new monthly jobs report, but in keeping with tradition, here’s a slightly different chart — one showing just the private sector job market.

In March, the overall economy added 216,000 jobs, but 14,000 Americans working in the public sector left the workforce, as state and local governments continued to cut spending. The private sector, however, added 230,000 jobs, marking the 13th consecutive month of private-sector growth.

More important that the streak, however, is the data. The 230,000 total not only beat expectations, it’s a genuinely good number. We’re accustomed to dealing with relative encouragement — results that are only heartening because of the larger, awful context. But a month in which 230,000 private-sector jobs were created is actually quite strong regardless of context.

Indeed, looking at the chart below, it’s worth emphasizing that March’s private-sector numbers were the second best since the Great Recession began in 2007, second only to February of this year. The combined data from February and March is easily the best two-month stretch in the last five years.

It is, in other words, encouraging. As we talked about earlier, the kind of robust job growth we’d need to bring the unemployment rate down in a hurry would require even stronger employment numbers, but given the hole we’ve been in, what we’re looking for are significant steps in the right direction. That’s exactly the news we received today.

With that in mind, here is a different homemade chart, showing monthly job losses/gains in the private sector since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.