If you started a new job last month, you’re not alone. In fact, 313,000 Americans found jobs in February. While 92,000 people found jobs in construction and manufacturing, another 50,000 went to work in the retail sector.
In addition, more than 800,000 Americans joined the labor force for the month, which was the largest one-month labor-pool increase since 1983, not including months with temporary hiring to update the U.S. Census.
“Blue-collar sectors drove these gains, led by mining and construction,” reported Jed Kolko, chief economist with Indeed, in his report, “Almost Nobody Left Behind in February’s Jobs Report.” “Manufacturing is now outpacing the economy overall, and even retail had a strong February.”
Overall, the long-term unemployment rate is down to 2008 levels and wages continued to grow, but at a slower rate of 2.6% for the past year. That still puts wage growth ahead of inflation, as consumer prices are up 2.1% for the past year. Most important, the slower rate of growth was taken as a sign by investors that the Federal Reserve Board won’t push interest rate hikes more aggressively.
“Most people want to see worker wages move higher,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “But if wages and inflation were to shoot up sharply, Fed officials might be compelled to raise short-term interest rates more aggressively than planned to prevent the economy from overheating. When it raises interest rates it restrains borrowing, investing and spending.”
Another piece of good news – the stock market reacted positively to the good economic news. Rather than taking a swan dive, as it did in response to positive news on Feb. 5, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 440.53 points, or 1.77%. The Journal reported that the job news suggests that “the U.S. economy can run strong without overheating and forcing the Federal Reserve to slam its brakes on the expansion with aggressive interest-rate increases.”
The U-3 jobless rate was stable at 4.1% (with a U-6 rate of 8.2%) for the fifth consecutive month, while the labor force participation rate edged up from 62.7% to 63%.