February jobs report promising despite unemployment increase
WASHINGTON – Brutal winter weather snarled traffic, canceled flights and cut power to homes and factories in February. Yet it didn’t faze U.S. employers, who added 175,000 jobs, far more than the two previous months.
Modest but steady job growth has become a hallmark of a nearly 5-year-old economic rebound that remains sluggish yet strikingly resilient. The economy has been slowed by political gridlock, harsh weather and global crises. But those disruptions have not derailed growth.
Though the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began seeking work. The unemployment rate ticked up because most did not immediately find jobs.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department suggested that a long-hoped-for acceleration in growth and hiring still has not occurred. But that might not be all bad: Households have pared debt and avoided the excessive spending and borrowing that have undercut explosive economies in the past.
Total U.S. credit card debt is still 14 percent lower than before the Great Recession began in December 2007, according to the Federal Reserve.
Friday’s report makes it likely that the Federal Reserve will continue reducing its monthly bond purchases at its next meeting March 18-19. The Fed is buying Treasury and mortgage bonds to try to keep long-term loan rates low to spur growth. Fed officials have reduced the purchases by $10 billion at each of their past two meetings to $65 billion.
Average hourly pay rose 9 cents in February to $24.31, the biggest gain since June. Hourly wages have risen 2.2 percent over the past 12 months, ahead of 1.6 percent inflation.
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