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Jobless rate falls to 8.8%

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The U.S. unemployment rate in March fell to 8.8 percent, its lowest level in two years, as private employers added 216,000 jobs in retail, education, factories, health care and professional services.

The Labor Department report on Friday came a day after news the Chicago area’s unemployment rate had fallen to 9 percent in February — the latest figure available — from 11.2 percent a year earlier.

Chicago-area employers exemplify the activity in both low- and high-paying job availabilities:

• Daily-deal website Groupon anticipates adding about 50 jobs to its product and engineering teams in Chicago. Throughout North America, Groupon is hiring more than 150 people each month in sales, editorial, marketing, technology and customer support, among other areas.

• Two Chicago tech CEOs — Andrew Sieja of kCura and Brandon Cruz of Norvax — say they are looking to grow their companies by at least 33 percent each. Sieja’s legal-discovery database firm has 40 positions open in sales, marketing, engineering, software development and other areas, while Cruz’s health-insurance buying platform firm is hiring 50 business analysts, project managers and software coders and developers.

• Clothing, accessories and department stores boosted payrolls in March by a combined 6,500 jobs, to a total of 2.9 million nationwide. Locally, sports-skill training gear company Pro Performance Sports said its area sales in the first three months of the year jumped 45.4 percent over last year.

• Department store Von Maur is opening its second local Dry Goods young-women’s clothing store this summer at Woodfield mall in Schaumburg, employing 15. The Dry Goods store in Aurora employs 12.

The jobs news helped the Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest level in nearly three years before finishing up 56.99 points, at 12,376.72.

Contributing: AP

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