BREAKTHROUGH MONTH FOR U.S. JOB MARKET…. For a year, the most common Republican talking point on the economy has been a straightforward, four-word question: “Where are the jobs?” In light of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released this morning, the GOP may need a new argument.

The American economy added 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported Friday, in a month when the government hired thousands of temporary census workers.

The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent, the Labor Department said, but it is expected to worsen later this year as discouraged workers re-enter the labor force. […]

[E]conomists said the ambiguity surrounding the data did not change the underlying prognosis for the labor market. Many believe the economy has reached a turning point and will begin adding jobs at a slow, but steady, pace.

The jobs report is easily the best we’ve seen since the start of the Great Recession late 2007, and the strongest overall in three years. With revised numbers for recent months, March is now the third month to show positive job growth since the start of the economic downturn, but last month’s totals far exceeded the modest totals from November 2009 and January 2010.

By popular demand, I’ve revamped the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. Now, 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.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.