The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in February, surprising many economists who believed that the drop in jobless numbers would be slower. The economy created over 236,000 jobs, well over the predicted 160,000.
“The economy has now added private sector jobs every month for three straight years, and a total of 6.35 million jobs have been added over that period,” Alan Krueger, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote on the White House blog.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the 236,000 jobs added; 73,000 were in professional and business services; 48,000 were in construction; 32,000 were in health care; 24,000 were in leisure and hospitality, 23,700 were in retail trade; and 14,000 were in manufacturing.
“The manufacturing sector has added over half a million jobs over the last 37 months, the most for any such period since 1986,” Krueger wrote. “In the last two years the construction sector has added 306,000 jobs, with half of that increase occurring in the last five months.”
Today’s numbers arrive less than a week after the Dow Jones industrial average rose to record-levels when not adjusted for inflation.
Yet not all news is good news. State and local governments lost 10,000 jobs predominantly in education. 340,700 local education jobs have been lost since November 2009. More cuts are also on the way. The sequester budget cuts are expected to slash 750,000 jobs if the full extent of the sequester is felt throughout the entire year.
The monthly employment numbers are subject to change each month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 157,000 jobs were created in December. That number has since been revised to 219,000. The numbers are also heavily affected by education levels. The jobless rate is 11.2 percent for people without a high school diploma, 7.9 for those with a high school education, and 3.8 for those with a bachelor’s degree. Many college graduates still find themselves working jobs for which their degree was unnecessary.
The new unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2008. The White House takes this as a sign that the recovery that began in 2009 is gaining traction.
It remains to be seen whether the sequester job losses will begin to outpace the steady rate of job growth in the months ahead.