Economy Watch: A Solid Jobs Report for February

Defying recent worries, the U.S. economy turned in a strong performance in February in terms of job creation.

Defying recent worries, the U.S. economy turned in a strong performance in February in terms of job creation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. During the month, the economy created 242,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent, still the lowest it’s been since before the recession.

Another bit of overall good news: The BLS revised total payroll employment growth for December from 262,000 to 271,000, and the growth for January was revised from 151,000 to 172,000. With these revisions, employment gains in December and January combined were 30,000 more than previously reported. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 228,000 per month—a decidedly solid number, especially considering uncertainty in the rest of the world’s economies.

Employment gains were concentrated in some industries that benefit certain kinds of commercial real estate, such as health care (medical office space), and food and drinking places (restaurants and other retail space). One business category that continues to lose jobs is called “mining” by the BLS, which includes oil and gas extraction. Since its peak in mid-2014, that category has lost 171,000 positions.

Health care added 38,000 jobs for the month, many of them in ambulatory health-care service facilities, the kind of places that set up shop in neighborhood or community centers, though standard hospitals are adding jobs as well. Retailers also added jobs in February: 55,000 net new ones. The retail trade has added 339,000 jobs over the last 12 months.

Construction employment—a metric of real estate industry health—continued to trend upward in February, adding 19,000 positions for the month, with a gain of 14,000 in residential specialty trade contractors. Employment in construction was up by 253,000 over the last 12 months, with residential specialty contractors accounting for about half of that total.



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