Job Growth in February On Par with a Strong January
Unemployment Rate Remains Below 5 Percent
JOB GROWTH: February added another 235,000 jobs, sustaining the strong start to the year we saw in January, when the economy added (an upwardly revised) 238,000 jobs. That positive momentum moved the three-month average job gains figure to 209,000 per month.
TOP INDUSTRIES: In February, employment continued to trend up, with the biggest gains recorded in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care and mining.
UNEMPLOYMENT: The unemployment rate remained fairly steady, with a slight dip down to 4.7 percent in February.
WAGES: Wages rose slightly in February, bringing the annual average hourly increase to 2.8 percent.
WORK WEEK: The average work week remained unchanged at 34.4 hours.
TEMPORARY JOB TRENDS: A modest increase of 3,100 new positions was recorded in the temporary staffing sector in February, following a downward adjustment from 14,800 to 6,500 new jobs last month.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? The U.S. economy appears to be picking up good momentum. Job growth is moderately strong, the unemployment rate is holding steady, and the outlook for wage expansion is positive, as a tightening labor market forces employers to up the ante on incentives to retain and recruit high-demand skills. February 2017 was a good month for job creation, although most economists chalk that up to better-than-usual winter weather, which allowed construction projects to operate on an accelerated schedule. With high employment continuing, expect the Fed to raise interest rates later this month. Optimism for continued job growth and a strengthening economy may help spur exactly that as we move into the spring.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Steinberg Employment Research, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNBC, Business Insider, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, outsidethebeltway.com
Note: This newsletter references the BLS Report of February activity, released 3/10/17.