The latest jobs report is in, and employment numbers are looking good. Total nonfarm employment increased by 236,000 in February, pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7%, according to a Labor Department report released today. Market analysts had estimated a slight 0.1 percentage point dip from January's slow but steady 7.9% rate.
Major gains for this month came from the professional and business services sector, which added 73,000 jobs in February. Construction employment also increased by 48,000 and has risen 151,000 since September (a potential indicator of a housing market recovery). Transportation & warehousing and government were the only industries in the red for February, dropping 1,300 and 10,000 jobs, respectively.
Average hourly earnings met market expectations by improving 0.2% over January, while the average workweek stretched to 34.5 hours. Both these indicators help show that rising employment numbers are not offset by less pay and/or less time working.
In a statement released today, Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris wrote: "The economy is poised for even more significant growth, but Congress should not hold it back. We can't cut our way to prosperity. Deficit reduction alone is not an economic strategy or a jobs plan. It's time for members of both parties in Congress to work together on a balanced deficit reduction plan and invest in the middle class -- the engine of America's economic growth."
This March jobs report comes one day after the Labor Department reported an initial jobless claims drop for the fifth consecutive week.