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.