February Employment Numbers Blow Away Expectations

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The markets got their February unemployment numbers Friday morning, and they blew away expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payrolls increased by 313,000 in February, above the Bloomberg consensus estimate of 205,000.

Most of this gain was seen in construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities and mining.

Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government showed little change over the month.

At the same time, the unemployment rate was 4.1% for the fifth consecutive month, and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.7 million.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for black Americans declined to 6.9% in February, while the jobless rates for adult men (3.7%), adult women (3.8%), teenagers (14.4%), whites (3.7%), Asians (2.9%) and Hispanics (4.9%) showed little change.

Despite all this, average hourly earnings actually came in below expectations, posting an increase of only 0.1%, with the year-on-year figure three-tenths below the consensus at 2.6%. Considering how strong demand is for labor, policymakers at the Federal Reserve may not want to risk runaway wage gains as employers try increasingly to attract candidates, according to Bloomberg.

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