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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. unemployment rate was changed at 6.7 percent in March. But the jobs pict

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POSTED April 4, 2014 8:01 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) —  The U.S. unemployment rate was changed at 6.7 percent in March. But the jobs picture has brightened for workers in their prime earning years, according to the Labor Department report issued Friday.

One of the disturbing trends after the Great Recession ended in mid-2009 was the relatively modest share of 25- to 54-year-olds with jobs. Roughly 80 percent of this age bracket worked before the economic downturn. That figure plunged as low as 74.8 percent toward the end of 2010.

But it recovered in March to 76.7 percent, the best reading since February 2009.

This suggests that a core of U.S. workers — whose wages drive the bulk of consumer spending — are finally achieving steady job gains. Their employment-to-population ratio has climbed 1.2 percentage points over the past six months. It may be a possible indicator of stronger overall economic growth.

Not everyone, of course, benefited from last month’s hiring.

College graduates suffered a slight setback. Their unemployment rate stayed flat at 3.4 percent. Many had lost jobs and stopped looking for one. Still, college grads continue to enjoy better job prospects than those with less education.

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