U.S. employers created jobs at the fastest pace in three years in March, but nearly one-third came from temporary hiring for the Census, indicating the labor market has still some way to go to recover.
The Labor Department said in a report Friday that nonfarm payrolls rose by 162,000 in March, the largest gain since March 2007. That compared to a revised 14,000 drop in February, when the number was likely depressed by the blizzards that hit the East Coast.
Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires were expecting payrolls to rise by an even higher 200,000. The February figure was revised upward from an originally reported 36,000 decline.
Taking into account revisions to prior months, the U.S. economy added an average of 54,000 jobs a month in the first quarter, fueling optimism about the job market's recovery.
However, the 2010 decennial Census accounted for 48,000 of the employment boost. Since those jobs will be lost in the second half of the year, economists cautioned not to read too much into the headline figure.
As a reminder of the labor market's continued weakness, the unemployment rate stayed at 9.7% last month, in line with economists' expectations. The jobless rate is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics using a different, household survey.