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Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 678,000 jobs in February, following the addition of 481,000 jobs in January (revised), according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are still 2.1 million jobs left to gain to reach pre-pandemic levels (February 2020).  

This month’s report also included revisions to December and January’s nonfarm payroll employment growth — December’s total was amended to 588,000, up from 510,000, while January’s was revised up to 481,000 from 467,000. 

Unemployment rates drop slightly 

The overall unemployment rate inched down from 4.0% to 3.8%, with a total of 6.3 million people experiencing unemployment in February. Among major worker groups, unemployment rates either declined or were unchanged: 

  • Adult men: 3.5% (3.8% in January)
  • Adult women: 3.6% (3.6% in January)
  • Teenagers: 10.3% (10.9% in January)
  • Black/African American: 6.6% (6.9% in January)
  • Hispanic/Latino: 4.4% (4.9% in January)
  • Asian: 3.1% (3.6% in January)
  • White: 3.3% (3.4% in January)

Pandemic impacts ease after January hardships

The numbers of both temporary and permanent job losers changed little in February, settling at 888,000 and 1.6 million, respectively. Short-term unemployment (jobless for less than five weeks) dropped slightly to 2.1 million, while long-term unemployment (jobless for 27 weeks or longer) barely changed at 1.7 million. The labor force participation rate was also little changed at 62.3% for the month.

In January, the number of employees who teleworked due to the pandemic increased for the first time in several months, coming in at 15.4%. That percentage dropped back down to 13% in February. Those unable to work because of business closure, which also rose sharply in January, dropped from 6.0 million to 4.2 million in February. People who couldn’t look for work due to the pandemic also declined for the month, from 1.8 million to 1.2 million. 

Job growth picks up pace across industries

Yet again, leisure and hospitality had the most job gains among major industries, adding 179,000 jobs in February. The majority of those jobs (124,000) were in food services and drinking places. 

Other notable job gains included:

  • Professional and business services (+95,000)
  • Health care (+64,000)
  • Construction (+60,000)
  • Transportation and warehousing (+48,000)
  • Retail trade (+37,000)

All other major industries showed smaller job growth or had little to no change for the month.

Growth of average hourly earnings for private nonfarm employees slowed in February, rising just $0.01 to reach $31.58. This average has gone up 5.1% over the past 12 months.