Friday's report said that job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, healthcare and construction. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo
March 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy added close to 700,000 jobs during the month of February, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly assessment -- marking the second straight month that the jobs report soared past expectations.
The department said there were 678,000 new jobs last month. Most economists predicted that the report would show about 440,000 new jobs.
"The unemployment rate edged down to 3.8%," the department said in a statement. "Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, healthcare and construction."
Earlier this week, ADP and Moody's Analytics said in their monthly labor snapshot that the economy added 475,000 private-sector jobs during February, substantially more than analysts expected.
The new report noted, however, that the total U.S. workforce is still about 2 million jobs shy of where it was two years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Today's report shows that my plan to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out is working to get America back to work," President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday.
"Since I took office, the economy has created 7.4 million jobs. That's 7.4 million jobs providing families with dignity and a little more breathing room."
By sector, the report said that leisure and hospitality added about 180,000 jobs, professional and business services added almost 100,000 and healthcare 64,000.
The department also noted that average hourly earnings for American workers have increased by 5.1% over the past year to $31.58 in February, although it was up just one cent from January.
Friday's was the second consecutive jobs report that surprised leading economists with a positive performance. The January jobs report also surprised just about everyone a month ago when it showed an addition of almost 470,000 new jobs. Analysts were expecting only 150,000.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Biden underscored that the economy added 6.5 million new jobs during 2021 and pledged moves that will create more, such as the bipartisan infrastructure law.
"This progress is the result of the new economic approach I talked about in the State of the Union -- grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out," Biden added. "And it's a result of our success combating COVID-19 and moving forward safely."
Earlier Friday, the White House announced a move by Siemens USA for a $54 million expansion that is expected to produce hundreds of new jobs.
"President Biden will also announce the most robust updates to the implementation of the Buy American Act in nearly 70 years to ensure taxpayer dollars create good-paying jobs here at home, strengthen critical supply chains and position U.S. businesses to compete in strategic industries," the White House said in a statement.