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Employers added a huge 295,000 jobs in February

America's nonfarm employers added 295,000 jobs to their payrolls in February, well over consensus estimates of around 230,000. The unemployment rate also fell, from 5.7 to 5.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. Here's a look at the figures from the report that are well as those that are less inspiring.

The good news:

  • The broadest measure of unemployment the BLS publishes, U-6, fell from 11.3 to 11 percent. That rate counts not only the unemployed but also involuntary part-time workers and discouraged workers — that is, people who have given up the job search but want work.
  • This is the 12th consecutive month of payroll growth over 200,000, another sign that the job market has meaningfully improved over time.
  • The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons — that is, they'd like more hours — fell from almost 6.7 million to just above 6.5 million. So not only are fewer people unemployed, but fewer people are underemployed.

The not-so-good news:

  • The labor force participation rate fell from 62.9 to 62.8 percent, after a 0.2 percentage point bump in January. This figure is important because it counts the number of people working or looking for jobs. A higher participation rate means more people encouraged and looking for work. The fact that this fell, albeit slightly, is a sign that the jobless rate didn't fall for entirely "good" reasons. That's because only people actively looking for work are counted as "unemployed."
  • Wages also slowed down, picking up by only 3 cents since January, down from the prior month's booming 13-cent growth.
  • January's payrolls figure was revised downward by 18,000, to 239,000. (December's figure remained unchanged, at 329,000.)
  • There were more people who gave up their job searches last month than there were people who found jobs, reports FiveThirtyEight's Ben Casselman. That's not unusual these days, as his chart shows...but it's also not optimal. At the very least, the trendlines seem to be getting closer together, so we could escape this ugly situation very soon.

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