The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the U.S. jobs report on Friday morning showing relatively stronger job gains but far too many will find it disappointing.
Last month employers added 175,000 net nonfarm jobs, increasing the average monthly gain to 189,000 over the last year. The unemployment rate rose slightly by 0.1 percent to 6.7 percent while the labor-force participation rate remained unchanged at 63 percent.
Many analysts projected disappointing numbers due to an abnormally cold winter throughout much of the country and a slowing economy. Recently, the Bureau of Economic Analysis revised fourth quarter U.S. GDP down to 2.4 percent from a 3.2 percent annualized pace.
Employment revisions for the prior two months show December dropped to an 86,000 gain and January rose to 145,000-a net revision of zero. Among the total 175,000 non-farm jobs added in February, employment in the private sector by 162,000 and by 13,000 in the public sector.
Employment increased across most sectors. Led by strong hiring in professional and business services, which include accountants, architects, and technology workers-this sector added 79,000 jobs last month alone. Construction added 15,000 jobs, education and health services added 33,000 jobs, and restaurants and bars added 20,100 jobs. There was little change in others.
Average hourly earnings (includes hourly wage and fringe benefits) went up by 9 cents, or a 2.2 percent annual increase, to $24.31 per hour-the largest monthly gain in more than two years. The latest inflation rate of a 1.6 percent increase in the general price level of goods and services over the last year shows that those with a job have seen an increase of about 0.6 percent in their purchasing power, burdening the 10.5 million total unemployed even more.
Meanwhile, long-term unemployment remains high. After falling the previous two months, those unemployed six months or more grew by 203,000 to more than 3.8 million; this is 37 percent of the total unemployed. This is a particularly worrying situation because the longer workers stay unemployed, the more difficult it is for them to get a job and the more likely it is that they become permanently unemployed.
Another troubling sign is the fact that Americans who are employed remained unchanged at 58.8 percent, which remains near a 35 year low. Further, those who are 25 to 54-years-old-the highly productive age group that found more employment than its rising population since most of the last 65 years-struggle to find employment, leaving too many with no on-the-job training and declining productivity (see figure below).
This is a disappointing trend for many Americans, especially the poorest of us who many times become dependent on government services and depressed in the process, and for the future of the U.S. economy.
Weather appears to have had some impact on hiring in February. About 6.9 million full-time workers said their hours were temporarily reduced due to bad weather; the highest level in any February since 1977. Though their hours were reduced, these individuals are counted as employed, which is another indication of a depressed labor market
Overall, this was a relatively strong report, indicating a growing economy in 2014 and hopefully a trend that will restore the malaise that many feel about their job prospects. There is still a long way to go.