The winter of 2011-12 has been warm for much of the country — but it’s been particularly hot for the U.S. job market. With the Labor Department today reporting that February saw a net gain of 227,000 new jobs, that makes the December, January and February the best three consecutive months for job creation since the onset of the Great Recession.
The nation’s labor market, however, is far from healed. In addition to the overall rate remaining at 8.3% for another month, nearly 13 million Americans are still out of work and looking for a job. One reason the jobless rate stuck at 8.3% in February can be construed as a sign of strength because nearly 500,000 people returned to job-hunting in the month, figuring their odds of landing a position are now better.
Another sobering reminder: The Labor Department noted that “The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.4 million in February. These individuals accounted for 42.6 percent of the unemployed.”
On the plus side, January’s and December’s initially reported job increases were revised upward by a combined 61,000, giving the U.S. economy an average increase of 245,000 jobs over the past three months. The February increases came across all sectors — except for government hiring. The Labor Department reported “job gains in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and mining.”
The government category, which has been subtracting from job-creation for months on end, lost 6,000 positions. But even that figure is the lowest it has been in a long time.
Overall, while the U.S. labor market is hardly where it should be at this stage of a recovery, it continues to move in the right direction.