The Employment Situation for February – Solid Job Gains, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Employment Situation report for February today. Payroll employment expanded by 227 thousand from January to February and upward revisions added a total of 61 thousand to the December and January gains. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent, based on strong gains in both employment and the labor force, according to the household survey. The number of employed persons rose by 428 thousand while the labor force expanded by 476 thousand.

Both surveys are showing steady job growth in employment since bottoming out in early 2010, and the pause in the recent declines in the unemployment rate has a positive aspect in that it reflects the recent growth in the labor force. The labor force declined by roughly 1.8 million as a result of the recession, and these departures undermined the level of labor market improvement signaled by a declining unemployment rate. Now, at just under 155 million, the labor force has regained those losses, but still remains 3 to 4 million below trend levels of growth.

Today’s report is definitely positive news, but job growth will have to build on the recent improvements in order to replace the jobs lost during the recession as well as keep up with growth in the labor force from both new entrants and reentrants.



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  1. While NAHB is focusing on unemployment, the real reason for a stagnant market is being overlooked by everyone. The reason so few homeowners are moving up to a bigger and better home is that they either lack the equity needed to do so or are unwilling to accept the price achieveable in the current market. Equity drain must be stopped and reversed and there must be a viable resale market if the new home market is to recover. The only way to fix both is to greatly reduce the distressed inventory that is dragging prices and equity down.

    • I agree that loss of equity and depressed prices are problems exacerbated by the distressed inventory and reducing that inventory is an important part of the solution, but stronger economic growth, particularly job and income growth, and the attendant boost to consumer confidence will also help.

      But more to your point, NAHB is focused on more than unemployment.

      NAHB has specific policy proposals to reform and protect the housing finance system, including: a federal backstop for the secondary market, to fix the appraisal system, to protect the mortgage interest deduction, to defend against overly strict regulations like QM and QRM, and otherwise ensure credit is available to qualified home buyers and builders.

      All of these activities are focused on accelerating housing market recovery by targeting a range of inter-related problems including but not limited to depressed prices and the loss of equity exacerbated by the distressed inventory.

      • Reducing the inventory is not only a part of the solution, it is the only solution. Unless values are stabilized by reducing inventory, values and equity will continue to shrink and foreclosures will beget more foreclosures, as is happening now. NAHB should be looking at ways to significantly reduce the distressed inventory quickly or there will be little need for finance reform and there will be no boost to consumer confidence. I have proposed creating a rent-to-own program to quickly resolve the inventory issue but it appears the GSE’s and FHA, like NAHB, are just not interested. The first step in solving a problem is identifying the true problem and no one has done this to date.

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