The February Jobs Report Reveals Strong Hiring Gains, But An Uptick in Unemployment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the February jobs report Friday, a ritual that's risen to national importance in the years following the economic crash of 2008. As a whole, the report appears to show mixed signs for the slow rebuild of the American jobs market — hiring outpaced expectations for last month, but unemployment ticked up as well. Still, the overall picture is a positive one, easing some fears of a economic slowdown.

The U.S. economy added 175,000 new jobs during the month of February, beating out the 150,000 economists had predicted — a bit of good news after two underperforming months from December to January. But the unemployment rate rose too, from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent.

The BLS draws unemployment statistics through a different data pool of households than from the raw jobs numbers. The report found the number of "discouraged workers" had dropped from 837,000 to 755,000 — which is very good news, but also increases the pool of people actively seeking work, making them reflected in the unemployment rate when they previously were uncounted. As a consequence, unemployment can inch upwards as people feel motivated to return to the hunt, even in spite of a strong jobs month.

A few of the major statistics.

  • 162,000 of the 175,000 new jobs are in the private sector.
  • 24,400 of those are for temp companies, rather than long-term work.
  • 15,000 were in construction, a positive in a grueling winter season.
  • 14,000 were in health care and social assistance.
  • 13,000 were new public sector jobs, which is an impressively high figure — net hiring has been dragged down in recent years by public sector losses.

So, all in all, we've had a pretty decent month. Positivity about the report was echoed by Joseph Lake, U.S. analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit: