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Unemployment Rate Edges Back up to 6.7%, Which Could Be a Sign of Job-Hunter Optimism

The Department of Labor released its February employment situation report (link opens in PDF) today, and things might be looking up.

While total nonfarm payroll employment exceeded analyst expectations of 150,000 new jobs by 25,000, the overall unemployment rate edged back up to 6.7% from January's 6.6%.  That's because, although absolute payroll numbers increased, more Americans were also looking for jobs, adding to the overall labor force. That's potentially a sign that Americans are increasingly optimistic about their employment prospects.

Source: Labor Department 

Digging deeper, professional and business services (+79,000), as well as wholesale trade (+15,000), experienced relatively large payroll gains, while volatile motion picture and sound recording businesses shaved 14,000 off their payrolls. 

The severe winter had less effect on hiring than most economists feared. Construction companies, which usually stop work in bad weather, added 15,000 jobs. Manufacturing gained 6,000 for the second month in a row. Government added 13,000 jobs, the most in six months. Shipping and warehousing companies and retailers cut jobs.

In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by $0.09 to $24.31. Hourly wages have risen 2.2% over the past 12 months, ahead of 1.6% inflation over that time.

The average workweek fell a slight 0.1 hours to 34.2 in February -- analysts had predicted an expansion to 34.4 hours.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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