Five years after the Great Recession officially ended, most states still haven’t regained all the jobs they lost, even though the nation as a whole has.
In May, the overall economy finally recovered all 9 million jobs that vanished in the worst downturn since the 1930s.
Employers added 288,000 jobs in June and helped cut the unemployment rate from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008. It was the fifth straight monthly gain above 200,000, the best such stretch since the late 1990s tech boom.
The stock market signaled its approval. The Dow Jones industrial average surged 92 points to top 17,000 for the first time.
The breadth and consistency of the job growth are striking in part because of how poorly the year began. The economy shrank at a steep 2.9 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter as a harsh winter contributed to the sharpest contraction since the depths of the recession.
The U.S. job gains in June were widespread. Factories added 16,000 workers, retailers 40,200. Financial and insurance firms increased their payrolls by 17,000. Restaurants and bars employed 32,800 more people. Only construction, which gained a mere 6,000, reflected the slow recovery of previous years.
Local governments added 18,000 education workers. But that might have been a quirk.
“Many schools that had been closed for snow days stayed open longer than usual in June,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.
Over the past three months, job growth has averaged a healthy 272,000. And in May, the economy surpassed the jobs total from December 2007, when the Great Recession officially began.
Researchers at the liberal Economic Policy Institute estimate that 6.7 million more jobs would have been needed to keep up with U.S. population growth.
“We’ve seen hiring growth out of the winter because it was stagnant,” said Richard Bitner, vice president of marketing for Visiting Angels, a home health care services firm headquartered in Havertown, Pennsylvania.
Most economists say annualized economic growth likely reached a solid 3 percent to 3.5 percent in the April-June quarter. Growth over the entire year should be about 2 percent, they say, similar to last year’s 1.9 percent expansion.
Several other signs point to the economy’s brightening health.
Auto sales rose at the fastest pace in eight years in June. Factory orders picked up last month. And home sales strengthened this spring after having sputtered in the middle of last year when higher mortgage rates and rising prices hurt affordability.
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