DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We'll get an important snapshot of the U.S. economy today. The job market in this country has been racking up some healthy gains over the past few months. That trend is expected to continue. We'll find out if it does when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report later this morning. Here's a preview from NPR's Jim Zarroli.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The job market hit something of a milestone last month, employers added 217,000 jobs to their payrolls. And the number of jobs in the United States finally surpassed the levels reached before the financial crisis of 2008. The unemployment rate was 6.3 percent. And of the many people who follow the job market, most say it's growing at its fastest pace in years.
DAVID SANTSCHI: We still think the economy is expanding at a moderate pace.
ZARROLI: David Santschi is CEO of TrimTabs advisory service, which tracks the job market by looking at tax withholding data. His firm estimates that 174,000 were created in June, and that doesn't include freelance and consulting work.
SANTSCHI: 174,000 jobs is a bit more than what's needed to keep pace with population growth in the U.S., but it's certainly not a blowout figure, and I'm sure that policy makers would like to see that number higher.
ZARROLI: And some forecasters say it probably will be higher. The payroll processing firm ADP said, yesterday, that private employers added 281,000 jobs in June - a two and a half year high. The National Federation of Independent Business said hiring by small businesses increased for a ninth straight month. Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, thinks the June number will come in at a little over 200,000.
DIANE SWONK: But the important thing is, you know, what is going on underneath the numbers, and is there any real healing out there?
ZARROLI: Swonk notes that there was a drop in the number of long-term unemployed in May, and there was an increase in certain kinds of jobs requiring a college education, such as architects and engineers. She says she's hoping to see more of that kind of growth in the June report.
SWONK: That's where I'd really like to see some movement is - you know, is that a one month trend or is that something of a more broad-based improvement in employment that would really help us out in the second half of the year?
ZARROLI: Swonk says there are still too many people working part time who want full time jobs, and the labor participation rate remains too low. She says many of those hardest hit are young people who are still feeling the impact of the last recession - people who are unemployed and still living at home.
SWONK: What we'd like to see is some real fundamental healing and, you know, we've gotten some. But we're still a long way from having the tide lift all boats. In fact, we know some boats have sunk to the bottom.
ZARROLI: The job market has clearly come a long way since the financial crisis, creating on average almost 200,000 jobs each month this year. Another strong jobs report would also suggest the U.S. economy wasn't permanently damaged by all that bad weather last Winter. The government says the U.S. economy contracted by 2.9 percent during the first three months of the year, but it appears to have rebounded without any lasting harm to the jobs market. Jim Zarroli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.