The February unemployment rate held steady while net job growth was well above economists’ expectations.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 230,000 nonfarm job gains in February. Local, state and federal governments netted 12,000 jobs, resulting in 242,000 total net job gains. Economists had expected only 190,000-195,000 total net job gains, according to various sources.
The unemployment rate held at 4.9 percent in February from January. That’s the lowest rate since February of 2008 when it was also 4.9 percent, but beginning to rapidly rise toward the recessionary high of 10.0 set in October 2009.
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 72 consecutive months since the Great Recession. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.1 percentage points from the recessionary high.
The BLS also revised job gains for December 2015 and January 2016, showing that the economy netted 30,000 more jobs than the BLS had previously estimated for the two months. Net job gains have averaged 228,000 per month over the past three months.
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Job growth continued in the retail trade. The industry gained 55,000 jobs in February, after gaining 58,000 in January and virtually none in December. The industry has netted 339,000 job gains over the past year.
Food services and drinking places employment rose by 40,000 in February. The industry has added 359,000 jobs over the past year.
At 38,000, job growth also continued in health care. 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 one the gauges of labor-market health, lost 16,000 jobs in February after few gains throughout 2015. Construction, also one the measures of labor-market health, gained 19,000 jobs. The industry has gained 253,000 jobs over the past year. (See Table B by the BLS for more job numbers listed by industry.)
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (15.6 percent) followed by Blacks (8.8), Hispanics (5.4), adult men (4.5), adult women (4.5), whites (4.3) and Asians (3.8, not seasonally adjusted). No group experienced a significant change in their unemployment rate.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in February, the same rate since June 2015. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 7.3 percent rate, down slightly from 7.4 in January. (See Table A-5 by the BLS for more information about the unemployment rate by education level.)
The unemployment rate didn’t drop in February even though net job growth was much more than expected, because more workers entered or re-entered the job market.
The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in February was 7.8 million, the same as in the month before. The number of unemployed workers has decreased by 831,000 in 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 6.0 million, the same as in January.
The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector declined from 34.6 to 34.4 hours in February. Their average hourly earnings declined 3 cents to $25.35, after increasing by 12 cents in January. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.2 percent in a year. For private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, average hourly earnings were unchanged at $21.32.
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 — at least not for them.
The number of marginally-attached workers in February was 1.8 million, down from 2.1 million in January and by 356,000 from a year ago. Among the marginally-attached, 599,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs. The number of discouraged workers was down by 24,000 from the 623,000 that the BLS initially reported for January, and by 133,000 from a year ago. (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 2.2 million in February, up from 2.1 million in January. These workers accounted for 27.7 percent of the unemployed. 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 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the March 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers on April 1. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Except where otherwise noted, 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.