The underemployment rate, which some analysts call a truer gauge of the jobs situation because it includes the unemployed as well as those working part-time, was 20 percent in mid-March. That's about the same as it was in March 2010, according to a Gallup poll published earlier this week.
Still, job prospects were growing brighter in the private sector. Professional and business services added the most jobs in March, followed by health care, leisure and hospitality, mining, manufacturing sectors, the BLS reported. Since February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.5 million.
A second consecutive month of solid gains in job growth was encouraging, says Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director at Moody's Analytics. She predicts that rising oil and gas prices will dampen the economic recovery only slightly.
"We expect the momentum to keep building throughout the year and gradually strengthen for the next couple of years," she says of job gains. "Rising oil and gas prices will take a smaller bite out of disposable income, not enough to derail the recovery."
According to the global outplacement consultant firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cuts in the government sector rose to their highest level in 12 months. Government and nonprofit cuts accounted for 19,099 or 46 percent of all March layoffs.
Downsizing may be stabilizing
"Most cities and states have only just begun to address their massive budget deficits and we have yet to see how budget cutbacks are going to impact workers at the federal level," Rick Cobb, executive vice president, said in a statement. "The good news is that other areas of the economy appear to have stabilized in terms of downsizing activity."
The latest jobs forecast by CareerBuilder and USA Today also affirms that trend. Nearly three in 10 employers expect to hire full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter of this year, the same level as the first quarter and the highest since the first quarter of 2008.