The Biden Boom rocketed along with another two-thirds of a million jobs added last month, and another 100,000 jobs added in upwards revisions in January and December's numbers.
Job growth accelerated in February for a U.S. economy wrestling with swelling prices, the potential for higher interest rates and intensifying geopolitical problems.
Nonfarm payrolls for the month grew by 678,000 and the unemployment rate was 3.8%, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
That compared to estimates of 440,000 for payrolls and 3.9% for the jobless rate.
In a sign that inflation could be cooling, wages barely rose for the month, up just 1 cent an hour or 0.03%, compared to estimates for a 0.5% gain. The year-over-year increase was 5.13%, well below the 5.8% Dow Jones estimate.
For the labor market broadly, the report brought the level of employed Americans closer to pre-pandemic levels, though still short by 1.14 million. Labor shortages remain a major obstacle to fill the 10.9 million jobs that were open at the end of 2021, a historically high gap that had left about 1.7 vacancies per available workers.
As has been the case for much of the pandemic era, leisure and hospitality led job gains, adding 179,000 for the month. The job gap for that sector, which was hit most by government-imposed restrictions, is 1.5 million from pre-Covid levels.
Other sectors showing strong gains included professional and business services (95,000), Health care (64,000), construction (60,000), transportation and warehousing (48,000) and retail (37,000). Manufacturing contributed 36,000 and financial activities rose 35,000.
Previous months saw upward revisions. December moved up to 588,000, an increase of 78,000 from the previous estimate, while January’s rose to 481,000. Together, the revisions added 92,000 more than previously recorded and brought the three-month average to 582,000.
The trend for jobs is clearly upward after a wintertime surge of omicron cases, while exacting a large human toll, left little imprint on employment.
The economy also has been wrestling with pernicious inflation pressures running at their highest levels since the early 1980s stagflation days. The Labor Department’s main inflation gauge showed consumer prices rising at a 7.5% clip in January, a number that is expected to climb to close to 8% when February’s report is released next week.
Amid it all, companies continue to hire, filling broad gaps still left in the leisure and hospitality sector as well as multiple other pandemic-struck industries.