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Payrolls Up, Unemployment Steady in February

The ""U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics"":http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm reported data Friday that indicates nationwide employment gains and a static unemployment pace for February. According to the recent statistics, the country added 227,000 jobs during the month, and February's numbers, which represent the seventh straight month of 100,000-plus payroll gains, mark the longest period of consecutive increases since 2005.

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The country's unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent, beating economists' projections that called for a slight uptick in unemployment. Additionally, the rise in new jobs also bested predictions, with most forecasts anticipating about 210,000 new jobs in February.

The strong report continued a positive trend with just one notable are of weakness seen in retail employment, which dropped slightly. Additionally, construction jobs declined, hinting that gains in construction in recent months were related to mild weather.

The bureau revealed upward revisions for payroll gains in December and January, and January├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós payroll growth was changed to 284,000 from 243,000, while December├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós was revised to 223,000 from 203,000.

Other key findings in the report included a rise in average weekly hours, as well as increases for average hourly earnings. The forward movement should help personal consumption spending, which makes up about 70 percent of the nation├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ós Gross Domestic Product.

The government was less of a drag on the payroll report in February than it has been in recent months, subtracting about 6,000 jobs. Federal payrolls shrank by 7,000 while state and local payrolls improved by a net, 1,000. State and local governments appear ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô for the moment ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô to have weathered the evaporation of federal stimulus funds.

Even with the improved labor picture, those considered long-term unemployed, workers who have been without a job for more than 27 weeks, comprised 42.6 percent of the nation's total unemployment base. However, the average duration of unemployment improved in February.

For the housing sector, the unemployment report noted both positive and negative findings. Credit intermediation jobs, which are essentially underwriting positions, increased, but construction payrolls slipped, dropping 13,000 jobs, primarily in non-residential activity.

For the broader economy, retail employment slipped slightly reflecting the wind-down of holiday shopping the resulting aftermath. Temporary jobs demonstrated a strong rise of 45,200 in February, a statistic which could be interpreted as good or bad. While temporary employment is considered a precursor to permanent positions, an uptick in the number of temporary workers represents a lower commitment and a potential reluctance by employers to increase staff - and benefit costs.

Professional and business services payrolls, which includes those temporary jobs, expanded by 82,000, making it the strongest sector for February. Education and health care followed, rising by 71,000, as did leisure and hospitality, which went up 44,000. The leisure and hospitality sector is the lowest paying of the major industry sectors.

The labor force ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô the sum of employed and unemployed ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô grew 476,000 with increases in both components. The labor force participation rate, which signals confidence, improved to 63.9 percent after falling in January to 63.7 percent. It remains far below the 66 percent level at the onset of the recession in December 2007.

The employment-population ratio measuring the employment percentage for the over-16 population currently holding jobs jumped to 58.6 percent, its highest level since May 2010. Movement in unemployment rates in most demographic sectors was erratic.

Unemployment rates for adult (over 20) men and women remained flat at 7.7 percent each,and the unemployment rate for teenagers (16 to 19) rose 0.6 percentage points to 23.8 percent. The unemployment rate for high school dropouts improved to 12.9 percent from 13.1 percent in January, while the unemployment rate for college graduates was unchanged at 4.3 percent.

About Author: Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.
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