Friday’s monthly nonfarm payrolls report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided fresh evidence of a bounce back in the U.S. labor market from recent weakness that may have been weather-related.
This is despite the unemployment rate’s rise to 6.7 percent in February from 6.6 percent in January.
For the record, employers added 175,000 people to payrolls nationally in February, the most in three months. The increase beat economists’ average expectation of about 150,000 jobs. It also marked a substantial ramping up of job growth from January and December when 129,000 jobs and 84,000 jobs were added, respectively.
Private-sector employers added 162,000 jobs last month, up from 142,000 in January, again beating forecasts.
The new payrolls report also showed income growth with average hourly earnings rising 9 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $24.31 an hour in February. That compares to a 0.2 percent earnings increase in January.
Another potentially hopeful sign was that the BLS data showed 264,000 people joined the civilian labor force last month, which means more people were looking for work. That could be an indication the economy is improving and individuals feel more confident to begin seeking a job again. The rise in the labor force was the primary reason why the unemployment rate ticked up a bit in February despite the job gains.
With more people joining the job market, the work-force participation rate stabilized at 63 percent in February, unchanged from January, but up from 62.8 percent in December.
A declining labor-force participation rate to 35-year lows has been a chronic feature of the U.S. job market the last several years and a major reason for the decline of the unemployment rate since it peaked at 10 percent.
“I conclude that the decline of the unemployment rate significantly overstates the degree of improvement in the labor market,” William C. Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in the transcript of a speech he delivered Friday at Brooklyn College.
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