Unemployment rate ticks under 9 percent

March 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percentage point in February to 8.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

It was the third straight month the rate dropped, but the figure was not as substantial as December and January, as the rate dropped 0.4 percentage points in each of those months.

The department said the economy added 192,000 jobs in February, as the number of unemployed fell from 13.9 million to 13.7 million.

The unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percentage points in January on the addition of only 36,000 jobs and dropped 0.1 percentage point in February on the addition of 192,000 jobs. The difference is the number of people counted in the workforce. In February, the labor force was "unchanged" the bureau said.

The bureau said the manufacturing sector added 33,000 jobs in February, more than the 20,000 jobs in the sector estimated by Automatic Data Processing Inc. earlier in the week. In addition, the government said nearly the entire gain occurred in durable goods industries, including machinery -- 9,000 -- and fabricated metal -- 7,000.

Healthcare added 34,000 jobs in February, pushing to 260,000 the number added in the past 12 months, the government said.

Construction jobs rose by 33,000, after losing 22,000 jobs in January. Transportation and warehousing jobs rose by 22,000, half in truck transportation.

Overall, the average workweek was unchanged at 34.2 hours in the month. In manufacturing, the workweek rose slightly.

The average hourly wage increased by 1 cent to $22.87 per hour. In the past 12 months, average hourly wages have increased 1.7 percent, the bureau said.

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, hailed Friday's report.

"We are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this administration -- such as the payroll tax cut and the investment tax credit -- are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation," he said, at the same time warning there are sure to be "bumps" ahead.

University of Maryland economist Peter Morici wrote, "Don't break out the champagne just yet."

The gains in the month are "still ... not enough, after such a deep recession, and this is much less than what the economy is capable of accomplishing," he said, adding, "The economy must add 13 million private sector jobs over the next three years -- 360,000 each month -- to bring unemployment down to 6 percent."

At the National Employment Law Project, executive director Christine Owens said, "The uptick in February is welcome news, and if these growth numbers persist, we can be more confident that the recovery will have taken hold."

"At the same time, it's important to understand how much growth the economy needs to generate in order to truly address the jobs deficit," she said in a statement.

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