The US economy added 295,000 jobs in the month of February. The brisk pace of hiring continues a hot streak in the job market where each of the previous twelve months saw monthly gains of more than 200,000 jobs.
A mix of job growth and workers dropping out of the labor market was enough to push down the unemployment rate from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent, its lowest point in seven years.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls rose 3 cents to $24.78 an hour. Wages have seen a 2 percent increase over the past year.
One of the strongest industries in terms of job growth was in food services and drinking places, which added 59,000 jobs in February, up from an average of 35,000 jobs per month over the prior 12 months. The increase in hiring could signal increased consumer confidence as workers eat out more.
Job gains were also reported in professional and business services, construction, transportation and warehousing, and health care. Losses were seen in the mining industry.
The AP reports that the US economy is greatly outperforming most of its industrialized rivals:
The U.S. job market and economy are easily outpacing those of other major nations. Though Europe and Japan are showing signs of growing more than last year, their economies remain feeble. The euro currency union’s unemployment rate has started to fall, but at 11.2 percent it remains nearly twice the U.S. level.
Despite the good news on job growth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) remained relatively high at 2.7 million in February, accounting for 31.1 percent of the unemployed. However, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 1.1 million over the past year.
The overall jobs report was well received. As the New York Times reports:
Despite the disappointing wage numbers, the report prompted a new round of optimism about the economy’s recovery and spurred more talk on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates at its June meeting rather than wait until September. The news prompted a rise Friday morning in the yield on 10-year bonds and a dip in the stock market, where investors fear that higher interest rates will take a bite out of corporate profits.
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