U.S. Job Market Shows Strong Growth in February; Wage Growth Reverses
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 242,000 jobs in February, with the unemployment rate flat at 4.9%.
WASHINGTON – Employers added 242,000 jobs in February as the labor market bounced back from a short-lived slowdown, but a disappointing drop in average wages showed that the labor market is still a ways from a full recovery.
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The average hourly earnings declined by 3 cents an hour to $25.35, the largest drop since 2014. The decline followed a 0.5 percent gain the prior month that had raised hopes of a long-awaited pickup in pay.
The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, was unchanged at 4.9%, the Labor Department said Friday (March 4). A sharp rise in employment was offset by a similar-sized increase in the labor force, which includes those working and looking for jobs.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 195,000 job gains, according to their median forecast.
Also encouraging is that job gains for December and January were revised up by a total 30,000. December’s was revised to 271,000 from 262,000, and January’s, to 172,000 from 151,000.
The February jobs report probably wasn’t strong enough to convince Federal Reserve policymakers to hike a key interest rate again this month after they enacted the first increase in nearly a decade in December, according to news reports.
Job gains in February were concentrated in four sectors: retail sales; leisure and hospitality; education and health services; and construction. Payroll processor ADP reported the private sector gained 214,000 jobs last month, beating analyst estimates of 185,000 new positions. However, manufacturers cut 16,000 jobs as weakness overseas and a strong dollar continued to curtail their exports, and the plunge in oil prices discourages energy investment.
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