As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) this morning, the economy added 236,000 jobs in February. That’s way more than experts were expecting and will, no doubt, send the stock market soaring today. That’s the figure from the “establishment survey” half of the report. The other half of the report – the household survey – the survey used to calculated the unemployment rate – also has great headline news: the unemployment rate fell two tenths to 7.7%. If that makes you feel good (as it should), then don’t delve into the details. I wouldn’t want it to spoil your day.
The BLS’s “employment situation summary” (link provided above) begins with the household survey. You’ll immediately notice how often the word “unchanged” appears in the summary:
- the unemployment rate: “has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012.”
- The unemployment rate for whites declined. All other racial groups? “Little or no change.”
- Long term unemployed? “Unchanged.”
- Employment-population ratio? Unchanged.
- Labor force participation rate? “Changed little.”
- Number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons? “Unchanged.”
- Persons marginally attached to the labor force? “same as a year earlier.”
- Discouraged workers? “Down slightly from a year earlier.”
Regarding the employment-population ratio, per capita employment rose for the first time in four months, but by only the thinnest of margins – 0.03% – and remains lower than it was five months ago.
The drop in the unemployment rate was once again aided by a drop of 130,000 in the labor force in spite of the fact that the population grew by 170,000. (Not a single one of them needs a job for a source of income?)
Even the headline figure of 236,000 jobs is questionable when you realize that the anemic January figure of 157,000 jobs was revised downward sharply to 119,000. Can we expect the same next month?
It’s also worth noting that the 236,000 jobs added in February is 35,000 less than last February.
Construction added 48,000 jobs in February. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program (pouring a half trillion dollars per year into mortgage-backed securities) is evidently beginning to have the desired effect.
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The additional 236,000 jobs added in February break down as follows:
- Professional & business services: + 73,000
Construction: + 48,000
- Healthcare: + 39,000
- Leisure & hospitality: + 24,000
- Retail trade: + 24,000
- Information: + 20,000
- Manufacturing: + 14,000
- Mining: + 5,000
- Government: – 10,000