U.S. job growth surge underscores economy’s strength as headwinds rise

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job progress accelerated in February, pushing the unemployment charge to a two-year low of three.8% and elevating optimism that the financial system may stand up to mounting headwinds from geopolitical tensions, inflation and tighter financial coverage.

The Labor Division’s intently watched employment report on Friday additionally confirmed the financial system created 92,000 extra jobs than initially estimated in December and January. It advised that the labor market was shifting previous the COVID-19 pandemic and that the financial system has weaned itself off authorities cash.

Although common hourly earnings had been flat final month, that was due to the return of staff in lower-paying industries and a calendar bias. Firms are elevating wages to draw scarce staff, which is contributing to larger inflation.

Economists mentioned absent Russia’s battle towards Ukraine, which has pushed up costs of oil, wheat and different commodities, the sturdy employment report would have pressured the Federal Reserve to lift rates of interest by half of a proportion level later this month.

“On stability, regardless of weak point in wages, that is yet another in a protracted line of stories suggesting the Fed ought to have began elevating charges ages in the past,” mentioned Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Monetary in New York. “The Fed has its work minimize out if it needs to sluggish demand sufficient to stabilize the unemployment charge at 4%.”

The survey of institutions confirmed nonfarm payrolls jumped by 678,000 jobs final month, leaving employment 2.1 million jobs beneath its pre-pandemic stage. Economists count on all of the misplaced jobs will likely be recouped by the third quarter of this 12 months.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell this week described the labor market as “extraordinarily tight,” and advised lawmakers that he would help a 25-basis-point rate of interest enhance on the U.S. central financial institution’s March 15-16 coverage assembly. Economists count on as many as seven charge hikes this 12 months.

Employment progress was boosted by subsiding infections of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. No less than 1.6 million individuals reported they weren’t at work final month due to sickness, sharply down from a document 3.6 million in January.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls would rise by 400,000 jobs, with estimates starting from as little as 200,000 to as excessive as 730,000. February’s broad enhance in employment features was led by the leisure and hospitality business, one of many sectors hardest hit by the Omicron variant.

Leisure and hospitality payrolls elevated by 179,000 jobs. Employment at eating places and bars shot up 124,000, whereas accommodations and motels added 28,000 staff. Employment within the skilled and enterprise companies business elevated by 95,000 jobs.

Retailers added 37,000 jobs. Manufacturing payrolls elevated by 36,000 jobs, whereas building employment rose by 60,000. Authorities employment elevated by 24,000 jobs.

The report was, nonetheless, overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine battle. Shares on Wall Road dropped sharply in early buying and selling earlier than paring some losses, whereas the greenback rallied towards a basket of currencies as traders sought protected havens. U.S. Treasury yields fell.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has despatched oil costs surging above $100 a barrel, which can maintain U.S. inflation boiling for some time and damage client spending within the close to time period.

The unchanged studying in common hourly earnings adopted a 0.6% enhance in January. Knowledge for the employment report is collected in the course of the week that features the twelfth day of the month.

“There is a very well-established sample when the fifteenth of the month falls on a Saturday that usually boosts common hourly earnings that month and the next month falls to the draw back,” mentioned Robert Rosener, a senior economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. “That was the case in January, when the fifteenth of the month fell on a Saturday … and February was anticipated to point out some payback that might drag down the determine.”

Wages rose 5.1% within the 12 months by February after advancing 5.5% in January. Wages for manufacturing and non-supervisory staff rose 0.3% from January.

The typical workweek elevated to 34.7 hours from 34.6 in January. Combination hours labored rebounded 0.8%, which bodes nicely for financial progress this quarter.

“With the rebound in hours labored and additional features projected for March, actual GDP is predicted to rise by shut to three% (annualized charge) within the first quarter,” mentioned Brian Bethune, professor of apply at Boston Faculty. “The ‘Black Swan’ huge invasion of the Ukraine, mixed with associated jumps in crude oil and different commodity costs, nonetheless, throws some sand into the equipment of progress within the first half.”

Particulars of the family survey from which the unemployment charge is derived had been equally sturdy. Family employment elevated by 548,000 jobs, greater than sufficient to soak up the 304,000 individuals who entered the labor power.

The unemployment charge dropped two-tenths of a proportion level to three.8% final month, the bottom stage since February 2020. The labor power participation charge, or the proportion of working-age Individuals who’ve a job or are searching for one, elevated to 62.3%, the very best stage since March 2020, from 62.2% in January.

Males accounted for the rise, with 479,000 coming into the labor power, whereas 48,000 girls left.

“Extra people on payrolls means better combination buying energy from shoppers,” mentioned Peter Essele, head of portfolio administration at Commonwealth Monetary Community in Waltham, Massachusetts. “The end result may arrange a robust second half as extra spending from the newly employed is put towards items and companies. If the present pattern continues, at the moment’s fairness markets will appear to be a cut price by 12 months finish.”

The employment-to-population ratio, considered as a measure of an financial system’s potential to create employment, rose to 59.9%, additionally the very best since March 2020, from 59.7% in January.

However the variety of individuals working part-time for financial causes shot up 418,000 to 4.1 million. That lifted a broader measure of unemployment, which incorporates individuals who wish to work however have given up looking out and people working part-time as a result of they can not discover full-time employment, to 7.2% from 7.1% in January.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Enhancing by Chizu Nomiyama, Andrea Ricci and Paul Simao)

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