The nation’s had three consecutive months of job growth, a powerful sign that the Great Recession may finally be receding. So why don’t we feel better about the economy?

The United States added 227,000 jobs in February, the second month in a row that came in stronger than expected, but there are still plenty of indicators that keep the band from breaking into “Happy Days are Here Again.”

For one thing, the unemployment rate did not budge, standing still at 8.3 percent. That’s good news, the economists tell us, because it means that long unemployed “discouraged workers” are encouraged enough to look for work. When you consider the millions of people who are still out of work, however, job gains in the thousands don’t add up fast enough.

The other troubling number is that economic growth seems stalled, despite the better job numbers. These two indicators usually work in tandem, so jobs without growth doesn’t seem to make sense.

There are a number of theories about why this is happening; none of them is very reassuring. It could be that even with steady increase in the number of jobs, stagnant wages are holding back the recovery.

And there is potential bad news ahead. Public-sector jobs were protected by deficit funded stimulus programs during the worst of the recession, but those funds are now gone, and we can expect to see job losses in schools and state and local governments. The private sector will have to heat up, or we will lose ground.

Maine is in a particularly tough spot. Although our unemployment rate has been better than the nation’s as a whole during the recession, we had the biggest per capita 2011 job losses in the nation, and proposed cuts to MaineCare will result in more Mainers who work for health care providers losing their jobs.

The national jobs figures are encouraging, but lawmakers should not forget that joblessness is our biggest economic problem and should remain the top policy priority.

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