Economic growth is picking up again after a long winter. The March job numbers bring the average monthly hiring pace for the past six months to 188,000—just shy of the 200,000 jobs added monthly during the last 12 months.
While growth in the labor force is a positive sign, the stream of long-term unemployed has temporarily stalled the decline in the unemployment rate. Previously discouraged job seekers are now pouring back into the labor market. Of the 6.6 million workers under the age of 45 who stopped looking for work during the recession, more than a million have actively resumed the job hunt.
Recent reports about prospects for the long-term unemployed population paint a hopeful picture. Encouragingly, the number of long-term unemployed workers has fallen by three million from the recession’s peak, and though as many as two million remain without jobs, they no longer outnumber the ranks of the short-term unemployed. When combined with the 2.7 million part-time workers hoping to resume full-time work, it’s easy to see why the labor market shows little sign of relapsing. Sluggish growth in hourly wages indicates that there’s still room for improvement in the labor market—wages have yet to accelerate from the 2 percent annual growth rate averaged since 2009, despite the short-term unemployment rate’s return to normal.
Full employment remains far off, but the sustained increase in labor participation implies an improving job market for all.