February Jobs Report: Winners & Losers

by Dan Burrows | March 7, 2014 9:53 am

Markets can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the jobs situation. The February jobs report showed that hiring picked up significantly in February after two straight months of shockingly weak growth.

february-jobs-reportNonfarm payrolls expanded 175,000 last month, the Department of Labor said Friday[1]. Economists, on average, forecast payrolls to grow by 149,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg.

The better-than-expected jobs figures come after two months of big misses amid tepid hiring. Even after revising the figures from December and January upward by 25,000, job creation still slowed down markedly at the end of last year and the start of 2014.

If unusually cold winter weather was indeed responsible for those shortfalls, it wasn’t as much of a problem in February, according to the jobs report.

The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, rose to 6.7% from 6.6%, but that was due to more people entering the labor force.

Although the February payrolls report was largely positive, monthly growth still came in below average. The rolling six-month average has the economy adding 178,000 new jobs per month. And job growth averaged 189,000 per month over the past year, the Labor Department said.

However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting. Here’s a look into the February jobs report:

February Jobs Report: Industry Highlights

Drilling down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ February Employment Situation Report[2] showed areas of strength in professional and business services and in wholesale trade.

One of the best places for job seekers last month was in professional and business services, where payrolls increased by 79,000 in February, led by temporary help services. Other areas of strength included accounting and bookkeeping services, and services to buildings and dwellings. Over the past year, professional and business services added an average of 56,000 jobs per month.

Wholesale trade was another bright spot for jobseekers in February, adding 15,000 jobs. Nearly all of the increase came from work in durable goods. Wholesale trade has now averaged job growth of 9,000 per month over the last year.

Bars and restaurants continued to be a good place to look for work, as employment in food services and drinking places grew by 21,000. The industry has added an average of 27,000 jobs per month.

Construction continued to add jobs, as payrolls expanded by 15,000 last month, led by heavy and civil engineering. The industry has gained an average of 152,000 jobs per month for the past 12 months.

On the other side of the February jobs report, the worst place for workers last month was in the information industry, which lost 16,000 jobs. Most of the drop came from motion picture and sound recording, which can be volatile from month to month.

Retail trade also lost jobs last month, contracting by 4,000. A gain of 12,000 jobs in food and beverage stores was more than offset by drops in electronics and appliance stores; sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores; and department stores.

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and government, were little changed in February, the Labor Department said.

So, while not overwhelmingly positive, the February jobs report did give investors a little bit of good news.

  1. the Department of Labor said Friday: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
  2. Employment Situation Report: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t17.htm#ces_table1.f.1

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