Less crippled than economists predicted by the nasty weather that gripped much of the nation last month, the U.S.Department of Labor reported this morning the economy improved hiring in February, adding 175,000 new jobs. That was 25,000 more jobs than the average of analyst estimates.
In this touch-and-go recovery, gains higher than expected are good news. But the numbers over the last three months are anemic compared to last year’s average 190,000 new monthly jobs. February 2013, unencumbered by bitter weather, saw 280,000 new jobs.
Nonetheless, Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc., told Bloomberg News, “It’s a pretty good report, given the weather. You had a pretty good rise in average hourly earnings (9 cents to $24.31), you had some good gains in jobs in a couple of different sectors.”
This morning’s monthly employment report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed strength:
- Temp agencies were particularly strong, adding 24,400 new jobs;
- Bars and restaurants added 21,200 workers;
- Education services grew by 18,200 jobs;
- Accounting and bookkeeping services, gearing up for tax season, hired 15,700 more workers;
- Healthcare added 9,500 with the strongest job growth coming in doctor’s office (8,200);
- Wholesale trade grew by 14,800;
- Construction was up by 15,000 jobs.
Overall, the services sector accounted for 140,000 new jobs, while the goods-producing sector, mostly on the strength of the construction industry and 6,000 more manufacturing jobs, increased by 22,000. Those 162,000 private sector jobs, with state and local government hiring, accounted for the rest of February’s job growth.
The BLS also upped by 25,000 the meager jobs numbers for December and January.
However, the Labor Department said unemployment crept up to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent in January. A Dow Jones Newswires survey of economists said they expected unemployment to decline to 6.5 percent during the month.
Unemployment, down a full point since a year ago, has hovered around 6.7 percent since December. The uptick in February is attributed to a rise in the number of people joining the labor force and looking for work. According to the government report, there are 10.5 million people officially unemployed. But add in the 7.2 million working part time because that’s all they can find, and 2.3 million not counted as unemployed, but still wanting work, and the so-called U-6 rate of labor underutilization came to 12.6 percent in February. A year ago, it was 14.3 percent.
The impact of weather on unemployment is not as significant as it is on weekly hours calculations and on hiring generally. That’s because of how the BLS collects the data. The Bureau noted in today’s report that: “The reference period is generally the calendar week that includes the 12th of the month. Persons who miss the entire week’s work for weather- related events are counted as employed whether or not they are paid for the time off. The household survey collects data on the number of persons who had a job but were not at work due to bad weather.”