Friday's jobs report: Mediocre

This Friday, March 29, 2013, file photo, shows a help wanted sign in front of a restaurant in Richmond, Va. The U.S. economy has enjoyed a four-month stretch of robust job gains, but that appears to be ebbing. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The nation's payrolls added 88,000 jobs in March, a mediocre showing. This is the first month since June 2012 when the number of jobs added didn't top the break-even threshold of 100,000 jobs. That's the amount economists say is needed each month to keep pace with population growth. Forget about erasing the jobs deficit caused by the recession.

So when you see a number like 88,000, you can really view it as negative 12,000. We are not advancing, we are declining. That's not news to the 4.6 million long-term unemployed.

Then comes the news from various interest groups, all interpreting the U.S. Labor Department's monthly report. The missive from the American Staffing Association points out that temporary help jobs were up by 20,300 in March and up 6.4 percent from a year ago.

You could say that nearly one in four new jobs created last month was a temp job. It wouldn't be entirely accurate because some job categories are up, others are down and the net is 88,000 jobs.

Theoretically, increased staffing hiring is a harbinger of increased permanent hiring, as employers hedge their bets, waiting for the economy to improve. But we've been singing that tired old song for way too long. The economy will not improve until people have secure jobs at a decent rate of pay. It's that simple -- and that difficult.