The February jobs report is out, and it contains a key indicator about the economy available ahead of the Federal Reserve’s next monthly meeting, in about a week and a half. The Labor Department’s monthly report shows strong hiring in the U.S. economy for February, which saw the addition of 242,000 jobs and a steady unemployment rate at 4.9 percent. In an economy that’s been looking for good news, it’s encouraging that the U.S. economy has been adding jobs 72 months in a row.
January’s jobs report missed expectations, but February’s numbers exceeded them. Economists were expecting around 200,000 jobs added and got far more than that, and the unemployment rate, which dipped below 5 percent last month for the first time since February 2008, matched expectations. Job growth has been strong recently, with an average of 228,000 jobs added per month over the last 3 months. December’s numbers has been revised up to 271,00 jobs added, and January’s numbers have been revised up too, to 172,000.
In 2016, economists are looking for wages and labor-force participation to improve. While the January jobs report saw average hourly earnings rise 0.5 percent, February’s report saw them slip by 0.1 percent. There’s good news about the labor-force participation rate, though: It’s edged up to 62.9 percent. The participation rate, which has been dropping and reached its lowest point in decades, has been a worrying part of the recovery as economists wonder whether those who lost their job during the recession will return to work.