The 7.7 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2008
The U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate ticked downward from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday. The Labor Department also revised employment totals upward for December (for a gain of 23,000 jobs) and downward for January (for a loss of 38,000 jobs).
The job gains was the highest payroll growth since last November and the second best month for job growth in the past year. While the unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2008, the dip in part can be attributed to the fact that the labor force shrank by 130,000 workers.
"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides evidence that the recovery that began in mid-2009 is gaining traction," Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
There were 12 million unemployed persons in February, a slight improvement from January. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers edged upward from 23.4 percent to 25.1 percent). The unemployment rates for blacks (13.8 percent) Hispanics (9.6 percent), adult men (7.1 percent), adult women (each 7 percent), and whites (6.8 percent showed little change from last month.
The civilian labor force participation rate—the ratio of those actively employed or looking for work to the overall eligible population--held at 63.5 percent.
In February, the number of those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more was also little changed at 4.8 million. These “long-term unemployed” accounted for 40.2 percent of the unemployed, up from 38.1 percent the previous month.
The number of “involuntary part-time workers,” persons who were employed part-time because their hours had been scaled back or because they were unable to find a full-time job, remained at 8 million.
Last month, 2.6 million persons—up from 2.4 million in January--were marginally attached to the workforce, meaning they were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. These individuals are not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the survey.
Among these individuals, there were 885,000 “discouraged workers”—up from 804,000 in January, but down slightly from a year earlier. These individuals are not currently looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. The remaining 1.7 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in January had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities, the BLS said.
Professional and business services added 73,000 jobs in February. Employment in administrative and support services, which includes employment services and services to buildings gained 44,000 jobs.
Construction jobs increased by 48,000. Since September, employment in this industry has risen by 151,000.
The health care industry added 32,000 jobs last month, while retail added 24,000. Retail trade has added 252,000 jobs over the past year, the BLS reported.
The economy has added on average 191,000 jobs per month, for the past three months. Total job creation needs to be between 250,000 and 300,000 to lift the economy and significantly lower the unemployment rate, economists say.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.