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US Jobless Rate Falls to Two-Year Low

Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 1, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 1, 2011

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More signs that the world's largest economy is on the mend: The U.S. Labor Department reported private employers hired more than 200,000 new workers last month. That sent the nation's unemployment rate to 8.8 percent, the lowest level in two years.

The job picture is looking brighter for many Americans. Private employers get much of the credit, adding a net total of 216,000 jobs in March.  
Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall said it is the second straight month the economy has added more than 200,000 jobs.

"For more than two months we've had pretty steady job growth. It's been around 135,000, 140,00 a month. In the last two months, looks like we may be getting an acceleration in job growth, which would be a good sign."

The nation's unemployment rate is now 8.8 percent; down from 9.8 percent in December - the sharpest four-month drop in nearly 30 years.

At a UPS shipping facility in Maryland on Friday, President Barack Obama joked that the better than expected job numbers mean more packages to deliver. But he struck a more serious note, saying his administration's top priority remains job creation.

"And I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a good job can find one, and every American gets a shot at the American dream.  That's what we're focused on, that's what we're fighting for."

At the New York Stock Exchange, investors were also focused on the job numbers - sending stock prices sharply higher. With domestic manufacturing and exports rising, analysts say companies are likely to pick up the pace of hiring this year.

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said his company is among those planning to expand. "Engaged, well-deployed multinationals, I think you are going to see adding more jobs, including the Boeing company. We are going to add a few thousand jobs this year basically to fund growth on the commercial side of our business."

Republicans welcomed the positive job numbers. But House speaker John Boehner said the administration's  policies are adding to the economic uncertainty. "It's clear that we need to cut spending. We need to stop unnecessary regulations, end the threat of tax hikes and pass the trade bills that are out there. Those are the pillars of the Republican plan that will actually create jobs in America."

Despite steady job growth, some 13.5 million Americans are still out of work. That's almost twice as many as before the recession began in December 2007.

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