The American economy gained 273,000 jobs last month. We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, which means that net job growth clocked in at 183,000 jobs. That’s a pretty strong number, and the January number was revised upward as well. The headline unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 3.5 percent.
Part of the jobs gain was something of a statistical mirage. Nearly 200,000 people dropped out of work in February—double the usual number—and the civilian labor force shrank. The total number of employed people increased by only 45,000 and the employment-population ratio actually declined.
On the bright side, earnings rose smartly. Hourly earnings for blue-collar workers increased at an annualized rate of 1.7 percent after inflation, and weekly earnings increased a whopping 5.4 percent.
All in all, despite the iffiness of the jobs numbers, this is a very strong jobs reports. The number of new jobs was high; the headline unemployment rate went down; and earnings went up. There’s not much to complain about here.