US economy adds 379,000 jobs in February | Business and economic news
Well, it’s more like that.
The U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday, signaling that the labor market’s recovery was gathering pace after a brutal near-2020.
February’s gains were even more impressive given the harsh winter weather that ravaged southern states last month.
And most of the jobs added in February were in recreation and hospitality – the hardest hit sector of the economy.
Another bright spot – January’s dismal non-farm payroll figure has been revised up from anemic 49,000 to a modest but improved level of 166,000.
Although the figures for February were better than expected, the recovery in the labor market continues to lag behind a rebound in other sectors of the economy.
Some 745,000 Americans first applied for unemployment benefits from states last week – 9,000 more than the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Weekly unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs, which remain well above their prepandemic peak of 665,000 in March 2009.
The February jobs report is also deeply symbolic as it offers a year-over-year comparison with February 2020 – the pre-pandemic benchmark for many labor market statistics.
The unemployment rate last month edged down to 6.2% – encouraging, but still nearly double the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5% from a year earlier.
The number of unemployed last month remained almost stable at 10 million, but it is almost double the February 2020 figure of 5.7 million.
The participation rate – which measures the number of people working or actively looking for a job – also remained stable at 61.4% last month, but it is 1.9 percentage points lower than a year earlier .
Many forecasters believe the country’s labor market will not be fully healed until 2024.
This could lead to deep scars for the unemployed nationwide. The longer people are out of work, the more likely their skills are to erode and their networks to dry up, making it even more difficult for them to get a job.
But the trend is improving after the labor market was crushed by the surge in COVID-19 infections and restrictions that undermined businesses in December, when the economy shed 306,000 jobs.
New COVID-19 infections are now stabilizing and trending downwards, while the nationwide vaccination campaign, though bumpy, is well underway.
States and cities are starting to lift pandemic restrictions. New York cinemas and theaters will reopen on Friday at limited capacity.
And on Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced an executive order allowing the state’s businesses to fully reopen.
But lifting the restriction is only part of the equation. Consumers also need to feel comfortable enough to begin engaging in the types of activities that can bring legions of the country’s unemployed back to work – like eating out, going to the movies, flying and staying. in hotels.
Meanwhile, data and other developments suggest that the economy as a whole is on the verge of helping the labor market.
U.S. household incomes rose 10% in January – the second largest increase on record – thanks in large part to the $ 900,000 round of virus aid that Congress passed in December.
This contributed to a surge in retail sales in January, which is crucial for the health of the economy, as about two-thirds of growth in the United States is driven by consumer spending.
And another economic boost is almost surely in the cards, as the stimulus package proposed by President Joe Biden crosses Congress.
The US Senate is expected to begin debating the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus assistance bill on Friday.