Following two months of dismal growth, the February jobs report suggests an improving labor landscape. But despite the numbers, the employment picture remains cloudy at best.
The Labor Department reported today (Friday) that employers added 175,000 jobs last month, beating expectations of 150,000. Yet the February figure is still well below the 280,000 jobs created in the same month a year ago.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7% from the five-year low of 6.6% hit in January, as more people entered the workforce and failed to find work. Economists were expecting the rate to remain stable at 6.6%.
Economists were anticipating slow job creation due to the harsh winter weather that blanketed much of the country in February. Ice and snow are frequently responsible for flight cancellations and business closings, and bitter cold can also keep consumers inside, pressuring retail hiring.
Indeed, a total of 6.9 million full-time workers reported having hours temporarily reduced due to February's brutal weather.
Friday's jobs report may be better than the last two – but it's still far from good.
"It's just a steady-as-she-goes recovery." Justin Wolfers, senior fellow at the nonprofit think tank the Brookings Institution, wrote on Twitter. "Not fast enough, but not easy to derail."
Following are highlights from the Labor Department's report.
Key Takeaways from the February Jobs Report
- The private sector added 162,000 net new jobs last month. More than half those gains were in industries that pay the least, a notable trend for several months now and one that doesn't bode well for wage growth.
- The government added 13,000 jobs, construction companies added 15,000, and the manufacturing sector added 6,000 jobs.
- Education and health added 33,000 workers, and leisure and hospitality tacked on 25,000.
- Retail lost 4,000 jobs.
- The high-paying information sector lost a hefty 16,000 jobs, which follows a loss of 8,000 jobs in January. The financial sector added a weak 9,000 jobs.