The U.S. economy added 273,000 jobs in February, beating analyst expectations and keeping the unemployment rate pinned at 3.5%.
Notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical services, and financial activities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The unemployment rate has been either 3.5% or 3.6% for the past six months.
The labor force participation rate remained at 63.4% in February. The employment-population ratio, at 61.1%, was also little changed.
Wages increased substantially, with the average hourly rate rising nine cents per hour compared with January to $28.52.
Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.0%, according to the BLS.
Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by eight cents to $23.96.
It is possible that the jobs report for March won’t be as favorable, due to the recent market volatility and economic impact of coronavirus.
However, the labor market in February had strong momentum which means the trend could continue through March.
“The labor market’s unprecedented current expansion continued in February, as 273,000 jobs were added to the economy, exceeding the 2019 monthly average of 178,000 jobs, indicating the strength of the economy prior to the coronavirus developments,” says Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American, in a statement. “As long as the unemployment rate stays at half-century lows … then economic theory suggests economic growth will continue. Economic theory states rising unemployment reduces economic growth. Less demand for labor – rising unemployment – is indicative of decreased demand for goods and services – slower economic growth.
“On the housing front, builders continue to benefit from a milder winter and historically low mortgage rates,” Kushi adds. “The growth in residential construction jobs supports further improvement in the pace of home building because building a home does not readily lend itself to outsourcing and automation. It’s very hard to increase housing starts without increasing residential construction employment and productivity.”