This morning’s report from the Labor Department blew away analysts’ expectations. Prior to the release of the monthly Employment Situation Summary, economists polled by Reuters were calling for the addition of 190,000 jobs to private payrolls. Instead, the report showed 242,000 jobs added, and an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.
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It wasn’t all good news, however.
“The only disappointing numbers are on average weekly hours, which dropped by .2, and average hourly earnings, which dropped by 3 cents,” said Harry Holzer, former Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor and author of Where Are All The Good Jobs Going?, in a statement. “But the hours drop could be weather-related, while the small drop in hourly earnings might be a small correction after the extremely large increase we saw in January. The 2-month average of earnings growth remains above 4 percent, which is still very strong.”
Steady improvement in wages has thus far eluded American workers, whose real pay has fallen 6.9 percent since 2006, according to PayScale’s Real Wage Index, which measures the change in wages for employed U.S. workers, with inflation taken into account.
Several industries saw employment growth last month, including healthcare and social assistance (+57,000 jobs), retail trade (+55,000 jobs), food services and drinking places (+40,000 jobs), private educational services (+28,000 jobs), and construction (+19,000 jobs). Professional and business services was essentially unchanged for the month, and mining fell by 19,000 jobs.
The labor force participation rate improved last month, increasing slightly to 62.9 percent, while the employment-population ratio also improved slightly, moving up to 59.8 percent. 2.2 million workers, or 27.7 percent of all unemployed workers, had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, and 6 million were employed part-time for economic reasons.
The number of marginally attached workers (those neither working nor looking for work) was 1.8 million, down from 2.2 million at this time last year. The number of discouraged workers also declined over the year, from 732,000 in February 2015 to 599,000 last month.
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