• Wednesday, March 09th, 2011

The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 8.9% in March, the lowest mark in nearly two years, according to the latest report from the Labor Department on Friday.

The report stated 192,000 jobs were created last month.

Economists had predicted between 175,000 and 200,000 jobs would be created in February.

The unemployment rate had been at 9.1% in February. The rate was last below 9% in April 2009.

As recently as November 2010, the rate was 9.8%.

The “underemployment rate” — the number of people who have stopped looking for jobs or who work part-time and would like full-time work — dropped to 15.9%, also a near-two-year low.

“We know there’s still more work to be done for the millions of people who are either out of work or struggling to offset their rising costs with shrinking paychecks,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a statement on Friday.

In order to make a real dent in the unemployment rate, economists estimate that at least 300,000 jobs need to be created each month.

“All signs point to much stronger hiring,” Mark ZandiMoody’s Analytics chief economist, told The Associated Press. “I think we finally have a prescription for a better job market.”

The total number of unemployed Americans stands at 13.7 million.

Applications for jobless benefits have dropped in three of the past four weeks, including last week, when 368,000 people applied for aid, the lowest weekly total in nearly three years.

The highest number of people seeking benefits during the recession was 651,000.

However, standing in the way of a speedier economic recovery could be rising gas prices fueled by unrest in the Middle East.

The average cost of gas in the U.S. is nearly $3.50 a gallon.


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