The unemployment rate in February dropped to its lowest level since 2008, while the economy netted over 200,000 nonfarm jobs for the twelfth month in a row.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 288,000 nonfarm job gains in February. Local, state and federal governments netted 7,000 nonfarm jobs.
The total net job gains in February were 295,000. The unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 5.5 percent, the lowest rate since May of 2008 (when it was 5.4 percent and rising).
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 60 consecutive months since the Great Recession, the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in U.S. history. The economy has netted over 200,000 jobs per month for 12 consecutive months, the longest such streak in nearly 20 years. Job gains have averaged 266,000 per month over the past 12 months. The unemployment rate has dropped 4.5 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10 percent in October 2009.
The BLS revised job gains for December and January, showing that the economy netted 18,000 fewer jobs over the two months than the BLS had previously estimated. Even so, job gains were still well over 200,000 in each month. Net job gains have averaged 288,000 per month in the past 3 months.
The most impressive February job gains occurred in food services and drinking places, with 59,000 jobs. The industry has netted an average of 35,000 jobs per month in the past 12 months.
Job growth continued in the professional and business services industry, at 51,000. Job gains in this industry have risen by 660,000 over the past year.
At 24,000, health care yet again added jobs. The industry has netted an average of 29,000 jobs per month over the past year. Much of the industry’s steady job growth over the past few years, even throughout the Great Recession, is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as well.
Manufacturing, an industry that economists consider to be a gauge of labor-market health, netted 8,000 jobs in February. Petroleum and coal products lost 6,000 jobs, mostly due to a strike. Construction, also a measure of labor-market health, netted 29,000 jobs. Construction has added 321,000 jobs over the past year.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (17.1 percent) followed by blacks (10.4), Hispanics (6.6), adult men (5.2), adult women (4.9), whites (4.7) and Asians (4.0, not seasonally adjusted). Only teenagers experienced a significant drop (-1.7 percent) in their February unemployment rate.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.7 percent unemployment rate in February, down slightly from 2.8 in January. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 8.4 percent rate, down slightly from 8.5 in January.
The unemployment rate dropped below 6 percent in September 2014 and it has stayed under since. Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5.0-5.5 percent to be normal and a sign of a healthy economy.
The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in February was 8.7 million, down from 9.0 million in January. The number of unemployed persons has dropped by 1.7 million over the past year.
The count of unemployed workers does not include those 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 in February was 6.6 million, down from 6.8 million in January.
The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector was 34.6 hours for the fifth month in a row. Their average hourly earnings rose 3 cents to $24.78. Average hourly earnings stayed at $20.80 for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.
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 simply are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in February was 2.2 million, the same as in January. Among the marginally-attached, 732,000 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 up from the 682,000 that the BLS initially reported for 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 without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, was 2.7 million in February, down slightly from 2.8 million in January. These workers accounted for 3.1 percent of the unemployed in February. The number of long-term unemployed workers has declined by 1.1 million over the past 12 months. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without 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.
For more details about the February 2015 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the March 2015 unemployment rate and job numbers on April 3. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
– – –
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.