Not yet showing signs of disruption from the coronavirus, the national economy in February added 273,000 jobs, leaving the unemployment rate where it’s hovered, at 3.5 percent, for the past four months. That adds up to 2.4 million jobs in the past 12 months, compared to 2.6 million in the previous 12.
Job creation in December and January was revised upward, adding 85,000 jobs. Gains have averaged 243,000 jobs in the past three months.
Construction, restaurants and bars, health care and professional services like engineering and scientific research all saw big jumps of between 32,000 and 57,000 jobs month over month.
Average hourly earnings rose 9 cents, to $28.52, rising 3 percent in the past 12 months–barely over the current inflation rate of 2.5 percent: workers are keeping up with the cost of living, but not yet significantly improving their standard of living.
The markets, however, seemed indifferent to the good news, continuing their global crash since Feb. 21: Markets in Japan, Hong Kong and Korea closed more than 2 percent lower today while markets in New York opened around 3 percent lower this morning. U.S. markets have lost more than 12 percent of their value since Feb. 20. Global airlines alone were projecting revenue losses of as high as $113 billion because of disruptions to travel. Oil prices are at a two-and-a-half-year low.
Absent anticipation of the virus’s consequences, the jobs report was rich in mostly positive data, though the alternative rate of unemployment and under-employment–known as U-6–inched up to 7 percent, after rising two decimal points the previous month: that’s the rate that accounts for discouraged workers who have dropped out of the labor force, and are not counted in the standard unemployment rate, as well as part-time workers whose hours have been cut back or who are looking for full-time work–those working part-time involuntarily, and who are considered under-employed. There were 4.3 million workers in that category in February. Florida’s current unemployment rate is 2.9 percent. Its alternative rate of unemployment and under-employment is 7.1 percent. Flagler’s unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in December.
The labor force participation rate remained at 63.4 percent in February (it is closer to 44 percent in Flagler). The employment-population ratio, at 61.1 percent, changed little over the month but was up by 0.4 percentage point over the year.