Helen Villines 12:30 p.m., Dec. 12
U.S. Job Gains Top Estimate; Unemployment Rate 8.8%
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8% in March. According to the Labor Department, the nation added 216,000 jobs; economists had expected 192,000. Private employers contributed almost all of the gains. They have added 470,000 jobs in the last two months. That's the first time private hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006, according to Yahoo! Finance. The unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point over the last four months. That's the sharpest drop since 1983, says Yahoo! The labor force was little changed; that's why the unemployment rate nudged down. However, if the economic improvement continues, more people will go into the labor force, and that could drive the rate back up again, says Forbes magazine. Average hourly earnings were unchanged at $22.87 and the average workweek stayed at 34.3 hours.
The birth-death adjustment model, which purports to measure the net gain from new employers generated in the economy, rose by 925,000. However, this is a computerized estimate; it does not represent actual numbers.