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Cautious optimism follows job report

March 5, 2011 at 4:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- February's small improvement in the unemployment rate brings with it a renewed sense of optimism, U.S. economists said.

The Labor Department said Friday the unemployment rate ticked lower from 9 percent to 8.9 percent in February. In the month, the economy added 192,000 jobs, the report said.

"People hesitate until they feel that the recovery's durable enough, and then they have a tendency to jump in. Maybe we're finally getting to that jump-in moment," said Chief Economist John Ryding at RDQ Economics, The Boston Globe reported Saturday.

The unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percentage points in December and in January, but on a gain of fewer jobs, as fewer people were counted as part of the workforce. At this point, 64.2 percent of adults are counted as members of the workforce, the lowest rate in 25 years.

That means as conditions improve there are millions of people who could give looking for work a try, although, having stopped looking, they are no longer counted as the unemployment rate is calculated.

The low number of adults participating in the workforce is "a puzzle," said Jay Feldman, a senior economist at Credit Suisse.

"I expect it to recover somewhat in the coming months as the labor market improves and more people become encouraged about their job prospects," he said.

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