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US Economy Adds a Strong 242,000 Jobs

  • Jim Randle

The U.S. economy had a strong net gain of 242,000 jobs last month.

Friday's report from the Labor Department said the unemployment rate held steady in February at an eight-year low of 4.9 percent.

The number of jobs created was higher than most economists had predicted. Jobs grew in health care, retail, food services, construction and education. Mining, which includes the oil industry, hit hard by plunging crude prices, lost jobs.

President Barack Obama said the economy was “pretty darn great” now, and he criticized his Republican political rivals for “talking down” the economy. He said economic data showed the “doomsday rhetoric” coming from some political campaigns was “fantasy.”

The data showed 7.8 million Americans were still unemployed, which was about 800,000 fewer than a year ago. Another 6 million who want to work full time could find only part-time employment.

The number of people who were working or at least looking for work, called the “participation rate,” increased half a percentage point over the past few months.

WATCH: VOA Business Correspondent Jill Malandrino talks to Phil Davis, CEO of PSWInvestments about today's employment report and the markets

US trade deficit

A separate report showed that the U.S. trade deficit worsened in January, when exports were at their lowest level in more than five years. The strong U.S. dollar means U.S.-made products are more expensive on global markets, and that hurts sales.

While the job market continues to improve, a survey found that some business leaders across the nation were growing more pessimistic about the economy.

FILE - Two trucks move shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach, Feb. 17, 2015, in Long Beach, California.

FILE - Two trucks move shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach, Feb. 17, 2015, in Long Beach, California.

Valerie Rainey of the American Institute of CPAs helped conduct the study and said financial executives at both large and small companies expressed growing concerns about profits and revenues. In a VOA interview, she said that made them less likely to invest in expanding their operations.

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