The February Jobs Report: Solid but Not Stellar

by Rea Hederman

The February jobs report was a solid report — not quite a champagne-popping event, merely one more indicator that the recovery is on firm ground and job gains will continue in future reports. While a decline of 0.1 in the unemployment rate is statistically insignificant, it indicates that the rather sharp declines of 0.4 in both December and January were more than just a statistical blip. It is still likely that the unemployment rate will rise slightly as workers re-enter the labor force, but it would be surprising to see the rate leaping back over 9.5 percent.

There are indications that some of the anemic payroll-survey numbers from January were weather-related. The job gains in construction and transportation are more likely due to a bounce back from the weather rather than attributable to true growth.

While the February job gains of 222,000 is a good start, job growth needs to be much stronger to make up for the labor slack since December 2007. Hopefully, future reports will show over 300,000 new private-sector workers. The household survey shows that the number of employed workers is about 10 million below where it should be to return to the same level of employment before the recession began. At the rate of last month’s job growth, it would take seven years for the labor market to fully recover, a time period that is simply too long.

Rea Hederman is assistant director of the Center for Data Analysis at the Heritage Foundation.

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