US Employers Added 313000 Jobs in February, Unemployment Holds Steady

The stock market's best-case scenario is playing out

US nonfarm payroll employment rose in February by 313,000 jobs, the largest monthly gain in more than 18 months, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Average hourly earnings edged up four cents, or 0.1 percent, to $26.75 in February, a slowdown from the 0.3 percent rise in January. The proportion of people in their prime working years (25 to 54) who are working is at its highest level since 2008. "The additional good news is that a large number of these jobs are being created in resource industries, manufacturing and building, activities which are fundamental to robust economic growth".

The economy has expanded for 104 straight months, or almost nine years, the third-largest expansion on record, and hiring often declines as recessions fade further into the past.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, a jobs website, said the surprise burst of new positions - 200,000 was the expected number - likely stems from the tax plan President Donald Trump signed in December that slashed corporate rates. But factors that can help with affordability are more income to households (possibly a second income earner getting a job) and if home prices can finally moderate. Financial services gained 28,000, the biggest increase since 2005. In the first two months of 2018, the economy has added an average 276,000 jobs a month, a big step up from 182,000 on average in 2017.

"It was a very strong jobs report ... stronger than what we should all expect at this stage of a recovery", Kolko said.

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The number of people marginally attached to the workforce (that is, discouraged workers now not looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them) has fallen by almost 150,000 from this same point a year ago, and the number of employed black Americans is hitting record highs. Tariffs are effectively a tax increase on average Americans, and by imposing them, we are putting our own economic growth in danger. In other words, construction was responsible for approximately one-fifth of net new job creation in February.

But the strong growth, spurred by hiring in retail after layoffs previous year and gains in manufacturing and construction, did not boost wages. Even mining firms, a job-losing industry in recent years, hired 9,000 workers.

This buoyant print - the highest monthly jobs increase since October of 2015 - shattered Wall Street expectations of a gain of 205,000 positions.

"In spite of the modestly softer February figure, for the first two months of the quarter, the headline average hourly earnings number is increasing at a 3.3 percent annual rate, which would make it the strongest quarter of the expansion", said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in NY. The company is also paying 75 percent of employees' health care costs, up from 50 percent.

"That speaks directly to the growing demand for retail and the need for more retail services", she said. Still, the administration has opened the door to so many possible exemptions from the tariffs that an accurate estimate is all but impossible. "There are more IT jobs and not as many people".

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