Representatives from Breakthrough Charter Schools talk with a job seeker...

Representatives from Breakthrough Charter Schools talk with a job seeker at the 32nd Annual Spring Career Fair at Cleveland State University. It was announced April 1 that the unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and companies added workers at the fastest two-month pace since before the recession began. (March 4, 2011) Credit: AP

The U.S. private-sector job market added 230,000 jobs in March, the second straight month of 200,000-plus job growth, according to federal data released Friday. The February-March combination marks the strongest two-month private-sector showing in five years.

The private sector added 240,000 jobs in February. And the March unemployment rate inched down to 8.8 percent, a two-year low, from 8.9.

Some labor market experts believe the latest data suggest the job market has turned the corner on losses. Still, other data in the report indicate continued fundamental weakness.

Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board, a Manhattan-based research group, believes the economy has turned the corner because companies are shedding their hesitancy to hire.

"What has really changed from the business point of view is that they need the help and can afford it," he said.

But he said that the wild cards of rising food and oil prices could put the brakes on consumer spending, leading to a slowdown in job growth.

Adecco executive Lori Farley-Toth in Garden City believes job growth will continue because of increasing demand for temporary executive administrative assistants, the higher end of support staff in the professional and business services category, a sector that has been rising. In a downturn their numbers are the first to nosedive, but they are a bellwether of a recovering job market.

When growth in professional and business services "is complemented by growth in the administrative support staff, that to me speaks of sustainable growth," said Farley-Toth, who is the director of sales for the temporary-staffing company's mid-Atlantic division.

That professional and business-services category expanded by 78,000 in March, the most of any sector.

But the job market still has weak spots. For example, the public, or government, sector continues its string of losses with a 14,000-job decline last month. That cut the total employment gain to 216,000 for March. And the jobless rate remains significantly above the 5 percent rate in December 2007, the month the recession began.

West Babylon resident Christine Horgan, 24, who has degrees in computer science and studio art, began a new job at Harrison Leifer DiMarco Public Relations in Rockville Centre on Thursday as a interactive Web developer.

Horgan, who had been working as a computer programmer for a telemarketing company since her graduation from Binghamton University in 2010, posted her resume on LinkedIn and applied for jobs there early last week after a student adviser at her alma mater suggested the professional networking site. A week later, she had accepted the job at Harrison Leifer.

"I believed I would be looking for a month or two," she said.

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