NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The U.S. economy gained more jobs in March than any other month in the last three years, according to a government report released Friday.
The Labor Department said the economy gained 162,000 jobs in the month, compared to a revised reading of a 14,000 job loss in February. That makes March only the third month of gains since the recession began.
The unemployment rate remained stubbornly high, holding steady at 9.7%, matching economist expectations.
The average hourly work week crept up 0.1 hours in March, an indication that employers are restoring the hours of employees who had their shifts and pay cut during the recession. But there are still 9.1 million people working part-time jobs who want to be working full-time, up more than 250,000 since February.
The average hourly wage slipped 2 cents to $22.47. But the longer average work week lifted the average weekly paycheck by $1.57 to $763.98.
Taken as a whole across the economy, that will put more money into consumers’ pockets and help spur more spending, which in turn should produce more hiring into the future.