The economy gained more jobs than economists had expected in February. Despite that, the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up a notch.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent in February. The private sector netted 162,000 job gains while local, state, and federal governments netted gains of 13,000. Subsequently, the economy netted 175,000 nonfarm jobs in total.
Analysts had expected fewer net job gains in February, according to several sources, because of the unusually cold weather and huge amounts of snow. The unemployment rate ticked up a notch because more unemployed workers entered the job market.
The BLS also revised its job numbers for December and January, showing that the economy gained 25,000 more jobs than it had previously estimated. The BLS upwardly revised December job gains from 75,000 to 84,000 and those in January from 113,000 to 129,000.
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 48 consecutive months, with total nonfarm employment (private sector, plus or minus government) showing net job gains in each of the last 41 of those months. After BLS revisions, the U.S. economy has netted an average of 189,000 nonfarm jobs per month over the past year.
At 79,000, the most notable February net job gains were in the professional and business services industry. Temporary help services (“temp workers”) gained 24,000 of those. The industry as a whole has netted an average of 56,000 jobs per month over the past year.
Next in line was the food services and drinking places industry, with 21,000 net job gains. The industry has added an average of 27,000 jobs per month over the past year.
The construction industry gained 15,000 jobs in February, despite the colder weather and snow. Within the industry, 12,000 job gains occurred in heavy and civil engineering construction. Construction has added 152,000 jobs over the past year.
Over 100 American construction companies have pledged to hire more than 100,000 veterans within the next five years.
At only 10,000, the healthcare industry added fewer jobs than usual. Worse, it lost jobs in December for the first time that this writer can remember. It was among the few industries that gained jobs every month throughout the Great Recession.
The manufacturing industry gained only 6,000 jobs in February. The industry created an average of only 7,000 jobs per month in 2013.
The retail trade industry lost 4,000 jobs in February, likely at least partly due to continuing layoffs of temporary holiday workers, the unusually cold weather, or both
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (21.4 percent) followed by blacks (12.0), Hispanics (8.1), adult men (6.4), adult women (5.9), whites (5.8) and Asians (6.0, not seasonally adjusted). No group experienced a significant change in their unemployment rate from January except for Asians, who saw a 1.2 percent increase.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 3.4 percent unemployment rate in February, up slightly from 3.2 in January. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a 9.8 percent rate, up slightly from 9.6 in January.
The 0.1 percentage point rise in the February unemployment rate was at least partly because 203,000 more unemployed workers were actively seeking jobs.
For the BLS to count workers as unemployed, they must be actively seeking jobs in the four weeks preceding the count. The BLS counted 10.5 million workers as unemployed in February, up from 10.2 million in January.
That count and the unemployment rate do not include workers who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours. The number of involuntarily part-timers was 7.2 million, down slightly from 7.3 million in January.
The average workweek for both part-timers and full-timers was 34.2 hours in February, down slightly from 34.4 hours. Average hourly earnings rose by rose by 9 cents to $24.31. Average hourly earnings have risen by 52 cents (2.2 percent) in a year.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in February was 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million. Among the marginally-attached, 755,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs — at least not for them. The number of discouraged workers was down from the 837,000 that the BLS initially reported in January. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, increased by 203,000 in February to 3.8 million. These workers accounted for 37.0 percent of the unemployed. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
Since the beginning of this year, congressional Republicans have blocked passing a bill to extend unemployment benefits into 2014. As a result, roughly 2 million long-term unemployed workers have now lost their extended unemployment benefits. See the blog “Unemployment Benefit Extensions 2013 – Updated for 2014” for updates on the 2014 extensions.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA. To look for a new job, start at the Job Search page.
For more details about the February 2014 unemployment rate and related matters, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the March unemployment rate and job numbers on April 4. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Certain figures in this unemployment rate report were rounded and/or seasonally adjusted by the BLS, and are subject to revision by same (based on additional data that was not initially available). The unemployment rate chart pictured above was provided by the BLS.