The report from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed private employers created 245,000 new jobs, an increase offset by continuing contraction in the petroleum and manufacturing sectors. Overall, the 242,000 net jobs increase was about 50,000 more than the average of forecasts by labor economists.
In addition to strong February numbers, the government adjusted up its previous reports for both December and January, adding 30,000 jobs to the two month total. The revision pushed the initially anemic January count of 151,000 to 172,000.
In addition to the job growth, the Labor Department said unemployment held steady in February at 4.9 percent. It’s the lowest level in eight years. It would have been even lower, but for an increase in the number of workers in the labor force. The labor force participation rate, which has been declining for years, saw a bit of an uptick in the last few months. In February, the ratio of workers to the population was 62.9 percent. In January it was 62.7 percent. That slight increase translates to more than 500,000 more workers.
The report also contained some disappointment for economists, as well as workers. After a surprisingly robust increase in wages in January, average hourly pay declined 3 cents last month to $25.35. January’s increase was 12 cents.
February’s job growth was spread throughout the services sector. The largest increases, according to the report, were:
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- Retail +54,900, lead by hiring for food and beverage stores (+15,100), clothing stores (+11,100).
- Healthcare +38,100, with some of the biggest growth coming in hiring for medical offices, outpatient centers and hospitals.
- Bars and restaurants +40,200
- Educational services (not public schools) +28,200
- Professional and technical services +17,600. The sector includes services such as engineering, computer systems design, bookkeeping.
- Information +12,000 with 7,000 new jobs coming the motion picture and recording industries.
Goods producers generally shed jobs, with mining dropping 18,000 due to declines in oil and gas production and manufacturers shedding 12,000. Continuing strong growth in construction added 19,000 new jobs.