Unemployment rate falls in rosy Feb. jobs report

Back to work

According to the Labor Department, some 236,000 Americans went back to work in February. Image: -Tripp-/Flickr/CC BY

An unexpectedly-positive jobs report, released by the U.S. Department of Labor on March 8, showed more jobs added to the economy than was anticipated in February. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate that economists say must fall before the economy can grow, fell, to its lowest point in more than four years.

Bright jobs report amid uncertainty

Our economy is a fickle one. Amidst the hew and cry over tax hikes and meat-axe spending cuts comes one of Wall Street’s greatest weeks, and, on its heels, one of the rosiest jobs reports in recent memory.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in January, following the nation’s plunge off the “fiscal cliff.” However, last month it dipped to 7.9 percent, the lowest point seen since December 2008’s 7.3 percent. Some of that dip was the result of the chronically-unemployed giving up the job search. Mostly, though, analysts say, it was driven by real job growth across a spectrum of industries.

All told, some 236,000 jobs were added to the economy in February, far more than analysts anticipated.

‘An outstanding report’

Craig Alexander, chief economist at TD Bank Group, said, “It’s an outstanding report. Not only are the headlines good but the details are good as well. You very quickly run out of superlatives in this payroll report.”

Robert Dye, chief economist of Comerica bank, said that the report is encouraging, but the numbers need to continue to rise. “If we can keep the labor market momentum up for the next few critical months, as fiscal tightening continues, many other good things will happen. Solid hiring is the antidote to fiscal tightening. We got a dose of the antidote in February. More is needed.”

A steadily-improving construction sector led the charge, with 48,000 new jobs. That is the largest amount added in any single month since March 2007. Another 9,000 financial services jobs were also added. The retail, architectural, restaurant, healthcare and engineering industries also all saw significant growth.

Meanwhile, the report said, hiring growth has averaged better than 200,000 each month since November. Also, private-sector payrolls grew by 0.6 percent last month.

On the down-side, the nation’s economy lost 10,000 state and municipal government workers in February.

Unexpected confidence

In spite of the fiscal cliff tax increases and trepidation over the sequester cuts, the hiring growth indicates the confidence of American businesses. That is contrary to the predictions of many economists.

Previous months’ revisions a wash

Meanwhile, January’s job growth was revised down from 157,000 to 119,000. However, that downgrade was offset by the upward revision of December’s payrolls from 196,000 to 219,000.


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