The economy added 236,000 jobs in February which lowered the official unemployment rate to 7.7%
A burst of hiring last month added 236,000 U.S. jobs and reduced the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. The robust gains suggested that the economy can strengthen further despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.
The February jobs report issued Friday provided encouraging details: The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years. Job growth has averaged more than 200,000 a month since November. Wages rose. And the job gains were broad-based, led by the most construction hiring in six years.
The unemployment rate had been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September. The rate declined last month because the number of unemployed fell 300,000 to just over 12 million, the fewest since December 2008.
More than half the decline occurred because 170,000 of the unemployed found jobs. An additional 130,000 stopped looking for work. People who aren't looking for jobs aren't counted as unemployed.
The healthy rise in construction employment may be a sign that the housing market could be ready to take off. That would be the most welcome news of all, both for gains in personal wealth and additional gains in employment.
Still, there was only a 40,000 difference between those too discouraged to look for work and those unemployed who found jobs. That gap is going to have to grow much wider if we are to put a dent in getting the long term unemployed back to work.