Exceptional Job Gains for February


The U.S. job market remained strong in February. Total payroll employment increased by 273,000 and the unemployment rate was 3.5% for the month.

Residential construction employment increased by 21,900 in February, after a revised increase of 22,400 in January. Total construction industry (both residential and nonresidential) employment totaled about 7.6 million in February.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Employment Situation Summary for February. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, following a revised increase of 273,000 jobs in January. Monthly job gains in December and January were revised higher. The December increase was revised upward from an initial estimate of 147,000 to 184,000, while the January increase was revised upward from 225,000 to 273,000.

Monthly employment growth has averaged 273,000 per month for the first two months of 2020, compared with the average monthly growth of 178,000 over all of 2019. Over the past twelve months, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2.4 million, with the average monthly growth of 201,000.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.5% in February, from 3.6% in January. It remained near a 50-year low. Over the month, the number of employed persons was little changed (+45,000), while the number of unemployed persons decreased by 105,000. The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, remained at 63.4% in February.

Additionally, monthly employment data released by the BLS Establishment Survey indicates that employment in the overall construction sector increased by 42,000 in February. The number of residential construction jobs increased by 21,900 in February, following a revised increase of 22,400 jobs in January. It was the second consecutive month that monthly job growth in residential construction exceeded 20,000.

Residential construction employment now stands at 3.0 million in February, broken down as 842,000 builders and 2.1 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction is 10,167 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 83,400 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 986,400 positions.

In February, the unemployment rate for construction workers was little changed at 4.0% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate for the construction sector has been trending downwards since February 2010 and remains historically low.

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