Payroll gains in the US private sector for February and March 2011 is the largest since early 2006.  In both months, it topped 200,000.  The last time this happened was in February and March of 2006.

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent for March 2011, which is the lowest level since April 2009.

From February 2008 to February 2010, the US economy shed 8.8 million private sector jobs due to the global financial crisis.  The first gain after this long stretch was in March 2010, which saw the private sector add 144,000 jobs.

A few months later, however, the economy ground to a halt as government fiscal stimulus faded. 

Subsequently, the Federal Reserve announced its program of quantitative easing and President Barack Obama struck a tax cut deal with the Republicans. These two policies gave the economy enough momentum to continue the recovery.

Even with February’s and March’s 200,000-plus gains, however, private payroll growth is still weak by historic standards for post-recession recoveries.

For example, in 2004, the jobs market stringed together three months of 300,000, 224,000, and 310,000 gains just 7 months after payroll change first turned consistently positive.