U.S. Labor Market Added More Jobs Than Forecast in February
A worker checks his work after applying red powder coat paint to New Holland Ltd. round baler components at the company’s Haytools factory in New Holland, Pennsylvania, U.S. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

U.S. Labor Market Added More Jobs Than Forecast in February

U.S. employers added more jobs than forecast in February and the unemployment rate declined, suggesting the labor market is clawing its way forward again following several disappointing months.

Payrolls increased 379,000 after an upwardly revised 166,000 January increase, according to a Labor Department report Friday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey projected a 200,000 February gain. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.2%.

U.S. Labor Market Added More Jobs Than Forecast in February

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A decline in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, along with an easing of business restrictions in some states, is starting to result in more job growth even as millions of Americans remain unemployed. February job growth was propelled by a 355,000 surge in leisure and hospitality employment.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries jumped after the report to the highest in more than a year, while U.S. stock futures fell, erasing earlier gains.

Many economists expect to see job prospects improve in the coming months as vaccinations pick up and virus concerns ease further.

Policy makers are closely monitoring the labor market as they consider a another economic stimulus bill. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package -- which includes an extension of federal unemployment benefits -- passed the House of Representatives on Saturday and the Senate’s final vote is expected as soon as this weekend.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a webinar on Thursday that the labor market is still a long way from maximum employment but that “there’s good reason to expect job creation to pick up in the coming months.”

“We want to see that the gains in employment are broad-based,” Powell said. “We have a high standard for defining what maximum employment is and we think it will take some time to get there.”

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