Job creation accelerated at a better-than-expected clip in February, and the unemployment rate notched a surprise drop, suggesting that strength in at least some parts of the economy is more than offsetting higher taxes and uncertainty tied to the stalemate in Washington.
The economy added 236,000 new jobs last month, which was well ahead of estimates. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had a median forecast for nonfarm payrolls to grow by 165,000. Excluding government jobs, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, payrolls jumped by 246,000, also well ahead of forecasts for 170,000.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate unexpectedly dipped to a five-year low of 7.7%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a report. Economists had forecast the rate to remain unchanged at 7.9%.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting.
Drilling down into the Department of Labor’s February Employment Situation report reveals strength in professional and business services, construction and healthcare, among other sectors of the economy. At the same time, employment in financial services and transportation, among other areas, remained weak.
The strongest job creation last month took place in professional and business services, which added 73,000 jobs in February after posting a gain of just 16,000 the previous month. The top spot for new hires was administrative and support services, which includes employment services and services to buildings, as it rose by 44,000, the Labor Department said. Accounting and bookkeeping services added 11,000 jobs. Computer systems design and management and technical consulting services also saw job growth.
The recovery in the housing market continued to create construction jobs, which grew by 48,000 in February. The strongest areas of new job creation were found in specialty trade contractors, which added 17,000 position in residential construction and 15,000 in nonresidential construction. Additionally, nonresidential building construction boosted employment by 6,000 last month, Since September, construction employment has grown by 151,000, the Labor Department said.
Healthcare hiring likewise kept growing, adding 32,000 new jobs last month. A leading area of growth was the 14,000 new jobs added in ambulatory health care services, which includes doctors’ offices and outpatient care centers. Nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals each saw additional employment of 9,000 new jobs.
Employment in all other major industries showed little change in February, but some subsectors did suffer slight losses.
The post-holiday-season hangover caused transportation and warehousing to regress a bit, led by small employment declines in air transportation, transit and ground passenger transportation, as well as warehousing and storage.
Elsewhere, finance and insurance saw a decline in employment, as did electronics and appliance stores, educational services and the traditional publishing industry.