KTEP - El Paso, Texas

U.S. Employers Added A Robust 235,000 Jobs In February

Mar 10, 2017
Originally published on March 10, 2017 8:16 am

The U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate nudged down a tenth of a percentage point to 4.7 percent. The monthly report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics fell roughly in line with economists' expectations: Healthy economic growth continuing January's strong showing.

The number of unemployed Americans saw little change last month, as well, hovering at roughly 7.5 million people.

At the same time, the January payroll number was revised to 238,000 jobs, up from last month's initial estimate of 227,000.

Solid gains in construction, manufacturing and health care helped drive February's robust numbers. And there was cause for optimism in wages, as well: Average hourly earnings last month increased 2.8 percent from a year ago.

As NPR's John Ydstie reports for our Newscast unit, the economy had already shown signs of momentum ahead of Friday's report. Growth in construction jobs had helped a private sector report earlier this week exceed expectations.

John explains that part of that boost might arise from anticipation of policies President Trump has promised: a combination of hefty tax cuts and infrastructure investment.

"President Trump won't be shy about claiming credit for a good number even though his main economic policies are not yet in place," John notes. "However, the expectation of big tax cuts and infrastructure spending may have contributed to some additional hiring by businesses."

Trump, who dismissed government jobs data as exaggerations or a "hoax" before he took office, retweeted the conservative news aggregator Drudge Report on Friday. That tweet linked to a Bloomberg report and said simply: "GREAT AGAIN: +235,000."

"It's definitely a solid report," Tara Sinclair, economist at George Washington University, tells The Washington Post. "This is the kind of number that the Federal Reserve was looking to receive before their meetings next week."

Partly on the strength of recent jobs reports, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in December that the central bank expects to bump its benchmark interest rate three times in 2017. The Fed's announcement predicted "only gradual increases" in the rate, NPR's Bill Chappell noted at the time.

February's healthy report likely will do little to dissuade the Fed from this course when it meets next week to vote on raising the interest rate.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.