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US Labor Market Expands as Jobless Rate Dips

  • VOA News

U.S. job seekers adjust their paperwork as they wait in line to attend a job fair in New York, February 28, 2013.

U.S. job seekers adjust their paperwork as they wait in line to attend a job fair in New York, February 28, 2013.

The U.S. labor market robustly expanded last month, adding another 236,000 jobs, while the country's jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent, a four-year low.

The government's unexpected, upbeat report Friday signaled that the sluggish American economy, the world's largest, may be starting to advance more rapidly.


The senior economist at a large U.S. bank, Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo, said the favorable numbers may presage a substantial improvement.

The U.S. labor market robustly expanded last month, adding another 236,000 jobs, while the country's jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent, a four-year low.

Watch related video by Mil Arcega for VOA


The government's unexpected, upbeat report Friday signaled that the sluggish American economy, the world's largest, may be starting to advance more rapidly.

The additional jobs last month came on top of an average of 195,000 that were added in each of the three previous months.


"I think there’s been a lot more improvement in the economy than people recognize and the numbers are beginning to show it. It’s really beginning to look like a real recovery," Vitner said.

The additional jobs last month came on top of an average of 195,000 that were added in each of the three previous months.


U.S. economists had predicted that the jobless rate would remain stubbornly unchanged at the January level of 7.9 percent.


The February rate is still well above the decades-long 5 percent level that has been common in the U.S. But the 7.7 percent figure is the lowest since the 7.3 percent figure recorded in December 2008 - in the initial stages of the country's deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.


U.S. economists had predicted that the jobless rate would remain stubbornly unchanged at the January level of 7.9 percent.

The February rate is still well above the decades-long 5 percent level that has been common in the U.S. But the 7.7 percent figure is the lowest since December 2008 - in the initial stages of the country's deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said more workers were hired last month in professional and business services, and by construction and health care companies.



The Bureau of Labor Statistics said more workers were hired last month in professional and business services, and by construction and health care companies.


Vitner said the jobless rate may dip further, but then increase again as more unemployed workers begin new job searches. In the U.S., unemployed workers who have quit looking for jobs are not counted among the jobless until they begin looking again for work.


"I do think the jobless rate will fall further. I don’t think it will fall every month. I think it might get to 7 and a half percent in the next couple of months, but then I think it’s possible the unemployment rate will actually increase because the jobs that we’re creating now, a larger portion of the jobs that we’re creating, are relatively high-paying jobs and those high-paying jobs are beginning to draw people back into the labor market," Vitner said.


The U.S. has struggled to fully recover from the recession. But the Dow Jones Industrial Average of key stocks recorded all-time highs this week. Corporations are recording large profits, even as they have been slow to hire more workers.


In adding to their payrolls in February, employers ignored the contentious rancor in Washington last month between President Barack Obama and his Republican opponents in Congress over whether to allow $85 billion in mandated government spending cuts to take effect.


The White House and Congress were unable to reach agreement and the budget trims took hold a week ago, although the effect of the cuts on the economy remains uncertain. Some government workers are facing unpaid furloughs from their jobs in the coming months, while some government services have been curtailed.

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