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:

The US has suffered from unusually bad weather in recent months, which has contributed to a recent slowdown in the labor market. The acceleration in job growth in February suggests that, despite this recent softening, the US is continuing to make slow, fitful progress as it recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression.