[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/31/art.econpoll.gi.jpg caption="Unemployment remained at 9.7 percent last month."]New York - (CNNMoney.com) - The economy had its biggest jump in jobs in three years in March, 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 since the start of 2008 that employers did not cut payrolls. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a gain of 184,000 jobs.
While the news was positive, there were a number of short-term factors that inflated the reading, including an addition of 48,000 by the Census Bureau as it geared up for the once-in-a-decade headcount of the U.S. population. March's count was also bolstered by seasonal factors - February's numbers had been depressed by temporary job losses related to severe winter storms last month.
Still the addition was good news for an economy that has suffered a net loss of 8.2 million jobs since the start of 2008, a month after the official start of the recession.
January's reading was revised from a loss to a gain of 14,000 jobs, and February's job loss was also narrowed in the revision. The only other month with even a modest job gain was November 2009, when there was a net gain of 64,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate held steady 9.7% in February, matching economist expectations.