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Portraits of People Living on a Dollar a Day

| Mon Apr. 7, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Subadra Devi left India after a drought killed her crops. Now she's a laborer in the Himalayan foothills.

Living in a wealthy nation, it's easy to forget that a whopping one-sixth of the world's population subsists without stable sources of food, medical care, or housing. More than a billion people around the world are believed to live on a dollar a day—and often less. While the circumstances leading to that sort of extreme poverty are varied and complicated, the situations faced by the planet's poorest are depressingly familiar. A new book out this week painstakingly documents the circumstances of some of them. Written by Thomas A. Nazario, the founder of a nonprofit called The Forgotten International, and vividly reported and photographed by Pulitzer Prize winner Renée C. Byer, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor offers a window into these people's everyday lives, and calls for action on their behalf. I spoke with Nazario about his motivations, global inequality, and how to avoid the savior complex.

Mother Jones: Tell me a little about why you created this book.

Thomas A. Nazario: It grew out of a foundation I established about seven years ago. I was tired of spending time with people on the street all over the world who had simply been forgotten—by their families, by their village, and by whatever communities they might be associated with. There seemed to be so many of them, particularly in developing countries. It hit me that something had to be done. I wanted to bring to the attention of the world community that every day these people exist on almost nothing. We spend an awful lot of time in malls and taking care of ourselves and our immediate needs, and these people never enter our consciousness. Why does it take a typhoon or an earthquake to wake up people to the truth that far more people die of poverty every day?

In a New Delhi slum, six-year-old Vishal Singh cares for a baby while her mother is away. Renée C. Byer

MJ: What was your selection process like?

TN: I wanted there to be some cultural and ethnic and racial diversity. I certainly didn't want to just focus on places like Africa, or those first places we think of when we think of extreme poverty. I also knew of circumstances that existed in given countries that were really quite compelling. So I came up with 10 countries and began to organize trips. That doesn't mean we caught every story we wanted to catch, but there were also stories we found along the way.

A six-year-old herds cows for his father in Ghana. The family's economic circumstances make it unlikely he'll ever go to school. Renée C. Byer

MJ: Which stories affected you the most?

TN: There are three. One was the kids who live on an e-waste dump in Ghana. That was quite compelling for a variety of reasons, but I think if you look at the book and see those photographs and read that piece, it'll hit you pretty hard.

"We hear terrible things about sweatshops and phone centers, [but] in many ways they've done more to lift people out of poverty in the last 20 years than almost anything else."

Another piece was a family in Peru that lives on recycling. That, in and of itself, is not a big deal. Recycling is probably the second-largest occupation of the poor. But [the mother's] personal story, about how she had been abused by two different husbands, how her boys were taken away because they were needed to farm, and she was given all the girls—and how her kids will probably not ever go to school. She gets constantly evicted from one place or another because she can't find enough recycling to pay the rent. When we left her—we gave everybody a gift of at least some kind for giving us their time and telling us their story—we gave her $80, which is about as much money as she makes in two months. She fell to her knees and started crying. Not only did I learn that 25 percent of garbage produced in developing countries is picked up by individuals like her, but that one of the biggest drivers of global poverty is domestic violence, and how women and children are thrown into poverty largely for that reason.

Eight-year-old Fati scavenges scrap metal in an e-waste dump in Accra, Ghana, and carries it in a bucket on her head. She is crying from pain caused by malaria. Renée C. Byer

The third story that really touched me was about a woman and her family in Bangladesh. She works in a sewing factory about 8 to 12 hours a day, six and a half days a week, and makes 17 cents an hour. Of course we've heard about these sweatshops. They fall apart, they kill people, the working conditions are terrible; people sleep on the floor. But instead of finding someone who was beaten up emotionally, we found someone who was smiling most of the time because she was getting a regular salary, her husband was working, and she actually had a husband who was a kind and gentle fellow. That made it possible for her to keep her kids in school, to educate them properly, to have some hopes and dreams for them in the future, and to probably break out of poverty—if not in this generation, then the next. That meant the world to her. The truth of the matter is that, even though we hear terrible things about sweatshops and phone centers, in many ways they've done more to lift people out of poverty in the last 20 years than almost anything else. That was a realization that I didn't expect.

Hora Florin, who grew up in Romanian orphanages, spends his nights near underground heating vents to keep warm. Renée C. Byer

MJ: There are many contributing factors to poverty, and gender can be a huge one. Can you elaborate?

TN: It's one of the biggest reasons why women and children live in poverty. Not only do they make far less than men doing the same kind of work—even if they get the same kind of work—but often they're saddled with raising the children, and that keeps them at home. So they have a limited number of hours and they usually work in labor markets that are informal at best. If you couple that with the fact that they are often required to get water for the family—which in many cases takes three to four hours a day—and that they have to get the food and so forth. Many families think of women as a liability rather than an asset, which is why they're often sold as children into prostitution or trafficking.

The women of Nkwanta, Ghana, carry cassava, an edible root that they farm. Renée C. Byer

MJ: Climate change plays a big role, too. People on the financial margins are more likely to be affected. Did you see that playing out at all?

TN: We met a woman in Bolivia. She's over 80 years old. She works her own little farm. She grows wheat and beans. And she frankly didn't like us— largely because we were from the US. Over the past 20 years, she says, her wheat no longer grows, there's not enough rain, there's too much heat, and her beans are almost worthless. She says the biggest reason for this is countries like the United States putting so much carbon in the air. Her climate has changed and made it impossible for her to live. She lives on a mountainside where there used to be quite a bit of rain, snow, and fresh water. Climate change is affecting an awful lot of the poorest of the poor. When you think that subsistence farming is the largest job of the world's poor, it's no wonder they're the first to feel the effects when there's not enough rain or there's more drought or flooding.

Nine-year-old Alvaro helps out with the family's alpacas and llamas since his father died. He was one of the few children in the book who attends school. Renée C. Byer

MJ: According to Oxfam, the 85 richest people have as much money as the poorest half of the world, and 70 percent of people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last three decades.

TN: It seems to be getting worse and worse and worse. When we talk about poverty, we talk about how that is associated with lifespan. If you live in a very, very poor country, you'll probably live about half the time that you' live in a rich country.

The other thing that's troubling is that we have a number of billionaires in this country, and they control an amount of wealth so disproportionate that it's frankly immoral. I think the more people learn about that, the more I think we're looking at conflict resolution in parts of the world where these kinds of wealth disparities exist. The more it becomes obvious and the more it becomes troubling, the more people will rally around that and the more it will seem unfair. That's one of the reasons we had the 99 percent movement not long ago.

The Kayayo Girls of Accra collect waste or serve as porters for wealthier residents. They often live in communal settings near or atop the city dump. Renée C. Byer

MJ: We often hear that a disproportionate number of the poor are in the Global South—with one-third in India alone. Why is that?

TN: I think there are some historical reasons—certainly imperialism, and totalitarian systems, and government structures that have used the masses to build wealth have played a part. A country like the US really began to build wealth during the time of industrial revolution—once that happens and you build universities and provide young people with education. Then it kind of snowballs: Countries get richer largely because they have the infrastructure, the education, and the kinds of benefits that you'll find in a wealthy country. Two hundred, maybe 250 years ago, there really wasn't a big difference between rich countries and poor countries, rich people and poor people. We were pretty much all poor. Now we have enormous wealth in some countries and very little wealth in other countries.

Hunupa Begum, 13, and Hajimudin Sheikh, six, beg for food in New Delhi. Begum is blind and Sheikh suffers from abnormal fluid build-up in his head. Renée C. Byer

MJ: There's a concern in the international development sphere about people acting out of a so-called savior complex. How do we separate this from genuine concern?

"My experience is that most poor people actually have a pretty good sense of what would improve their lives."

TN: One of the mistakes we often make is we go in on our white horse and try to dictate what might be best for other people instead of being far more inclusive and spending time with indigenous communities and really asking them. My experience is that most poor people actually have a pretty good sense of what would improve their lives and the lives of their children. They just don't have the money or the means to get there. It's that top-down thing that's a problem, particularly if you have a white face and you're in a community that sees no white faces. You really do have to work with people and come in with translators and get a sense of what the real needs are and help from the bottom up.

Ana-Marie Tudor in the Bucharest, Romania, home from which her family faces eviction. Renée C. Byer

There are some things that almost always help alleviate poverty, and one is, of course, education. There's almost nothing terribly political or ugly about providing decent schools in villages that have none—or clean water, or things that are so basic that no one's going to argue with.

One message in the book is that you don't have to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to go out and help. Everybody—particularly those in the middle class—are people who have enough money to go out once a week and buy a nice dinner. All of those people need to make a concerted effort to once a week or once a month really carve out a little of the funds that they don't need and help somebody, whether it's an individual or a family or a village somewhere or a school. We all have a duty to make the world a better place.

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The Best R&B Group You've Never Heard Of

| Mon Apr. 7, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

The "5" Royales
Soul & Swagger: The Complete "5" Royales 1951-1967
RockBeat

 

the 5 royales soul and swagger

Their songs were covered by everybody from James Brown and Ray Charles to Mick Jagger and the Mamas and Papas. Steve Cropper, the renowned Booker T and the MG's guitarist, recorded a tribute album celebrating the group, recruiting the likes of Steve Winwood and Sharon Jones to sing. Though highly regarded by R&B connoisseurs, the "5" Royales have never received the widespread acclaim their hardcore fans believe they deserve, but a new collection intends to change that. Packed with raucous uptempo stompers and spine-tingling ballads, the essential five-disc, 141-track set Soul & Swagger makes a persuasive case for the Winston-Salem, NC group's greatness. The key ingredients in the Royales' sound were the pleading, gospel-tinged tenor vocals of Johnny Tanner and the stinging, bluesy guitar of Lowman Pauling, and while "Dedicated to the One I Love" or "Think" might be the initial standouts, there are dozens of other equally exciting tracks here. Check out "Monkey Hips and Rice," "Catch That Teardrop" or "The Slummer the Slum" and prepare to be converted. Resistance is futile!

San Fermin: From Classical Concept Album to "Orchestral Indie Rock"

| Mon Apr. 7, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

San Fermin didn't start out as a band. In the summer of 2011, Ellis Ludwig-Leone took his newly earned degree in classical composition to a secluded artists retreat in Canada and returned with a 17-song score for 22 instruments, which he titled San Fermin. Even after recording it, with 22 musicians, "It didn't feel like a band yet," he recalls. "It felt like an album I had made."

But Ludwig-Leone (a fitting surname) wanted to perform his composition, so he set about recruiting a smaller, core group to do it live. "The idea was to find players who could read music well, and who could also exist in a rock band setting," he says. As a result, San Fermin the concept album evolved into San Fermin the band, whose powerful sound matches the album's elaborate layers while upping the rock. The eight-member ensemble, which includes a trumpet, baritone sax, and violin, creates swelling climaxes and tight harmonies reminiscent of The Dirty Projectors, landing in a genre Ellis defines as "sort of orchestral indie rock." I caught up with Ludwig-Leone, who handles the band's keyboard duties, along with Stephen Chen (sax) and Mike Hanf (drums), in advance of a sold-out San Francisco show.

The dynamic between concept album and rock band is just one of San Fermin's underlying contrasts. Ludwig-Leone loves "when a song has something in it, and also has the exact opposite in it, and they somehow coexist." Consider "Sonsick," written just months after his college graduation. It's about young adulthood and the realization that "your decisions have long-range consequences at that time in your life." The song "feels like a party, but it also feels like a panic attack. And those two things together have this weird friction."

"It's not just candy," he adds. "It's got some salty aspects to it as well."

The album hinges on a back-and-forth dialog between characters with opposite ideologies. There are emotional, grandiose lyrics sung in Allen Tate's deep bass, countered by the down-to-earth responses of Rae Cassidy. (On the recorded version, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius share lead female vocals.) Ludwig-Leone establishes tension by "having the male and female voices sing very different things," a device he expects to continue in the future.

San Fermin is noteworthy for its precise musicality. "A lot of people studied theory and composition in this band," drummer Hanf explains. "We read into it a bit to make it sound good." Several members boast a mixture of classical training and rock band experience.

"They are bringing the creativity of people who actually write music to their parts," Ludwig-Leone says. "Probably 50 percent of Steve's notes at this point are embellishments of what I once wrote." Chen, the saxophonist, doesn't deny it, and adds that his bandleader "just discovered a new line that I've been playing."

"It's well-balanced," Hanf chimes in. "It all goes back to Ellis to make sure everything's cool, but the people who want freedom to try new ideas, have it. I improvise a lot, pretty much every show. And if it sounds good, it sounds good. If it doesn't, it gets nixed. It's kind of nice to have one person be like, yes or no." He says the band's willingness to experiment gives the live shows a "state of tension" that's exciting for the performers as well as the crowd.

Ellis agrees. "On the record, it's one thing, because that's a document. I want to control a lot more on that. But once you start playing live, if you're not using the talents you have, you're just being a stupid bandleader. And it gets boring."

The song "feels like a party, but it also feels like a panic attack. And those two things together have this weird friction."

As San Fermin develops further, fans seem to like what they're hearing. "I'm doing taxes—oh my god, such a terrifying thing anyway," Ellis says. "I'm going through the receipts, and even from September it's crazy to see the number of people who were in the room. We've seen a lot of very explosive growth. The first time we played in Portland, there were 90 people. When we were back, there were 400, and there was a line out the door—it was oversold."

"We always ask people at the merch table, 'How did you find out about our band?' It's useful for us," Chen says. They credit Sirius XMU and NPR, including a Tiny Desk Concert in October, with bringing in early fans.

Hanf notes that they also benefited from the endorsement of "Paul Krugman, of all people! That was the funniest one, I think. He was backstage [before their Bowery show] with Peter Sagal, just drinking beer on the couch."

"Such a surreal backstage!" Ludwig-Leone exclaims. "I had to get out of there, it was too much. It was like every person my dad listens to on the radio!"

The attention is paying off: San Fermin heads for Europe in April, returning to the United States in time for performances at Firefly, Summerfest, and Lollapalooza. Chen says the small stages they started out on "definitely constrained our ability to jump around and interact with each other physically. At festivals, we get a nice big stage. People are hearing the music in a cool new way, and also getting to experience our band visually."

Watching San Fermin live in San Francisco, it's obvious they're having fun—coming to the front for solos, dancing around, and playing off one another and the audience.

None of this was what Ludwig-Leone pictured when the band first came together. "I thought the prime place for us to play would be performing arts centers, because the album itself is really lush, and there are some songs that rock hard, but it's really this sort of introspective thing. And now I actually feel the opposite: When we play at seated venues, we're a little freaked out, because we're so used to revving up a crowd at a rock club...So there's this weird give and take, where you have to be able to do the chamber music sound, and also the rock band sound."

Somehow, San Fermin makes it all work. "It feels greater than the sum of its parts to me," the bandleader says. "There's all sorts of stuff in there that wasn't there when I wrote it, and is very specific to our live show. I think 'The Count' is our favorite thing to play live. That's the song where we take it the furthest out—like totally off of the page."

Hanf explains: "It goes straight from composed music to like eight bars of entropy, [then] right back into where we were before."

Behold. (The entropy begins at 2:25:)

Now, as Ludwig-Leone composes San Fermin's followup album, "I think of everyone as I write for their parts." Inspired by what the group has done with songs like "The Count," he says the upcoming album "feels like it's often very controlled. Small, small, small…big crazy…small, small, small. That's the energy you get from having a band doing their own thing. That's one of the many ways that touring has shaped the writing process."

While writing San Fermin, he "didn't have the luxury of hearing songs until we recorded them, so I would bring people in one by one. But now I write the song, give people the music, we try it live, and then we can make adjustments. It's much more personalized to the players."

The band members are busy with other projects, too. Ludwig-Leone recently composed a score for a ballet. Chen doubles as sax for Great Caesar Band. Hanf, who has put out solo records and serves as an "on-call, hired gun" drummer, says San Fermin marks "the first time I've actually drank the Kool-Aid" and spent months on the road with a single band.

The side projects are helpful for San Fermin. "I think that's one of the things that really makes this band work," Ludwig-Leone explains. "There's so much creative energy in the band, but at the same time, the writing—it comes from me. I think we avoid some of the pitfalls of having a bunch of different cooks in the kitchen, because these guys all have their own creative outlets."

Unsurprisingly, the members of San Fermin draw their musical influences from a variety of sources. "I would say that literally every kind of music has been played in the tour van," says Ludwig-Leone.

"We've gone everywhere from Whiskeytown B-sides to obscure classical music to Taylor Swift," Hanf adds. "And we love music. We're dorky about it; we really get excited when we listen to good records or when somebody throws on something new." Ellis draws inspiration from the "big, concept-y records" of Sufjan Stevens; the first time he heard Illinoise was "a very formative moment."

"But being in the van is amazing, because I swear to God it's everything. Even things you wouldn't think would get in the van. Like, the most intense screamo music, it's there. At least 50 percent of the music Rae listens to was recorded before 1930. It's really all over the place."
 

Russia Demands Lease Refund After Invading Crimea

| Sat Apr. 5, 2014 12:10 PM PDT

Russia is threatening to nearly double the price of natural gas that it sells to Ukraine:

Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom's Chief Executive Alexei Miller said Saturday in a televised interview the company has raised the cost of gas to Ukraine to $485.50 from $268.50 for 1,000 cubic meters from April 1. Moscow says the price change is due to Kiev's failure to pay its bills.

....Mr. Miller said Ukraine owes Gazprom $2.2 billion for March deliveries, and another $11.4 billion the country saved as part of a discount agreement that Moscow recently scrapped....Mr. Miller the discount was a prepayment for the Russian Navy's use of Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol through 2017, but as that port had been annexed by Moscow, along with the rest of Crimea, Ukraine should repay $11.4 billion it saved, Mr. Miller said, following similar statements by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

So Russia gave Ukraine $11.4 billion as a payment for its lease of naval facilities in Crimea through 2017. But now that they've invaded and conquered Crimea, they figure they deserve a refund. The mind boggles.

Here Is a Video of 25-Year-Old Jon Hamm Being Super Awkward on a Dating Show

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:47 PM PDT

So, you're walking down a street and you see a sign or a building or a landmark and it triggers some long forgotten memory from your past and you're swept up in it and a wistful smile crawls across your face and you look up to the sky and put your hands on your hips and then you look down to the ground, then finally straight ahead, and you chuckle and my God, you were so young and stupid—but wasn't it good to be young?—but then you stop chuckling because you think about the memory more and you remember it in detail and my God, what were you doing, did you really act like that, did you really say that, my God, did you really look like that, and boom boom boom is the sound of your heart pounding and your anxiety is rising and you recall vividly that you didn't think you looked ridiculous when you were on this street corner when you were young and now you worry all of a sudden that you actually thought at that time—gasp!—that you were cool and fun and neat and attractive, and people liked you, you thought, but they couldn't have liked this person you're remembering because this person you're remembering, young you, is objectively humiliating, and now you begin doubting everything—is north north?—but especially yourself, that is what you doubt the most, because if you thought you were cool then and you were wrong, maybe you're wrong about thinking you're cool now, and maybe it's all a lie, everything you tell yourself about yourself, maybe you're not really very cool, maybe you're not really very happy, maybe you'll never be very cool, maybe you'll never be very happy, maybe your hands still sweat, and your lip still quivers, and your hair still looks all a mess, and oh God, dear God, blessed God, it's true, you think: you're still the same silly shamefully awkward 25-year-old you never wanted to be in the first place.

Don't worry. Jon Hamm was a super awkward 25-year-old as well and look at him! You're probably cool now, too.

(via Slate)

…But Does a Fire Tornado in Australia Spin the Other Way?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:22 PM PDT

This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last weekend I posted a video taken not too far from where I live showing a "fire tornado"—really a spinning vortex of rising air drawing its power from fire on the ground. It was pretty dramatic, mostly due to hundreds of tumbleweeds swirling around it, drawn in by the rotating column of wind.

After posting it, I got a note from Chris Tangey, who specializes in photography in Australia’s Outback. He took some footage of a fire tornado in 2012 (watch above) that he claimed was better than what I posted…and he's right.

fire_tornado

Yegads. The speed and power of such a vortex depends on how quickly the air in the middle can rise, which in turn draws in air from farther out; as that air spins and falls in the rotation speeds up, tightening the vortex and magnifying it. As you can see in the fire, spurts of flame leap up the inside of the vortex, clearly giving it more strength. The sound and speed of it are enthralling.

I had never heard of this phenomenon until a year or so ago. But now there are cameras everywhere…and, sadly, with global warming likely increasing both the number and severity of wildfires, we’re bound to see lots more footage like this.

Note: The title of this post is a joke; in general the Coriolis force only acts on far larger scales, so I would think a vortex like this (such as a dust devil) is just as likely to spin clockwise as counterclockwise. It would be interesting to see some statistic on this, though!

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Friday Cat Blogging - 4 April 2014

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 11:36 AM PDT

Well, I managed to make it through the morning. In case you're curious about what's going on with me, I'm having difficulty breathing. It came on rather suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've undergone loads of tests. The results are simple: my heart is fine, my lungs are fine, my O2 saturation is fine, and my ribs aren't cracked. A CT scan showed no inflammation or blood clots. A pulmonary specialist prescribed an inhaler just to see if it would work—I'm guessing it's an extract of pure unobtanium considering how much it cost—and it might be helping a little bit. But probably not. Sometimes I'm OK, other times I feel like I just ran a marathon. Yesterday I laid on the couch and watched movies all day. Today I'm better, but hardly breathing easily.

It's frustrating as hell. Can I blame Obamacare? In any case, the only catblogging pictures I have are a few I took earlier this week when I was feeling better. So here you go, Domino sunning herself in the front yard on Tuesday. Enjoy.

Can We Please Ditch the Splaining Meme?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 10:26 AM PDT

Hey there. Is there any chance that we could deep six the splaining meme? You know, mansplaining, straightsplaining, whitesplaining, and all their myriad offshoots. I get that it's a useful term, but it's gotten out of hand. Obviously we should all be careful when we talk about things outside our personal experience, and nobody gets a pass when they say something stupid. Still, we should all be allowed to talk about sensitive subjects as best we can without instantly being shot down as unfit to even hold an opinion.

The splaining meme is quickly becoming the go-to ad hominem of the 2010s, basically just a snarky version of STFU that combines pseudosophisticated mockery and derision without any substance to back it up. Maybe it's time to give it a rest and engage instead with a little less smugness and narcissism.

Here's a Second Look at Obamacare and the Uninsured

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 9:49 AM PDT

Here's a quick follow-up on my guess earlier this week that Obamacare will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 10 million when we finally close out 2014. The Urban Institute has released its latest survey results and concludes that Obamacare insured about 5.4 million people through early March. This is a comparison with Fall 2013, so it doesn't include the sub-26ers who have been covered by their parents' policies since 2010. It also doesn't include the March signup surge. If you add those in, we're probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 million right now, which I think is consistent with a guess of 10 million by the end of the year.

There's still a lot of guesswork in these numbers, but this is about the best we have right now. It's less than the 13 million the CBO projected, but it's a pretty healthy number nonetheless.

UPDATE: It turns out that the CBO uses pro-rated years. If you sign up for coverage on April 1, you count as three-quarters of a year. If you sign up on July 1, you count as half a year. I didn't know that, and it changes my guess. By normal human terms, I think about 10 million of the previously uninsured will have Obamacare coverage by the end of 2014. By CBO terms, that might come to 9 million or so.

March Jobs Report Shows a Spring Pick-Up

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 9:04 AM PDT

The US economy added 192,000 jobs in March, according to new numbers released Friday by the Department of Labor (DoL). The unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.

The number of jobs created last month was an improvement on the more moderate job gains seen in recent months—113,000 in January, and 175,000 in February. And even those numbers were revised upwards in March by a total of 37,000 jobs.

There's more good news. Six years after the financial crisis, private employers have finally regained all the jobs lost during the recession, and then some. The private sector lost 8.8 million jobs during the economic slump, and has since hired 8.9 million.

The portion of Americans who either had jobs or were looking for jobs—this is called the labor force participation rate—ticked up to 63.2 percent after a half-million Americans began looking for work again last month. And the number of long-term unemployed—those Americans who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more—has fallen by 837,000 since last year.

Economists predict that the positive March jobs numbers mean that the Federal Reserve, the US central bank that sets monetary policy, will likely continue to pull back on the massive economic stimulus measures it put into effect in September 2012.

Now for the sour news. The number of jobs added to the economy last month was still fewer than many economists had expected. "Everybody who said 'ah we finally turned the corner, we're going to be booming like crazy'—I think they're going to have to hold off for a few months," Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama's former top economic adviser, said on CNBC Friday.

And the jobs gained last month are not necessarily good middle-class jobs. The professional services sector posted the largest gains in March, but of the 57,000 new jobs added, most were in temp work. Food services added 30,000 jobs. The healthcare sector took on 19,000 jobs, and construction added 19,000.

The disparities in unemployment by race changed little in March. The jobless rate was 5.8 percent for whites, 12.4 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Hispanics, and 5.4 percent for Asians.