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US Economy Added 175,000 Jobs in February

U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs in February, picking up the pace of hiring after two months of sluggish job growth.

A senior economist at the country's biggest bank, James Glassman at JPMorgan Chase, tells VOA the advance in the labor market last month is a favorable sign for the world's largest economy. That is especially so, he says, after an unusually cold and snowy winter in the United States limited job growth in December and January.

"The February report tells you we may see better numbers in the next couple months as we get back to something more normal."

The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that the unemployment rate edged slightly higher to 6.7 percent in February. But Glassman says that may be a good indicator that frustrated jobless workers are more optimistic about the economy and have resumed their search for employment, even if they have yet to find a new job.

"If the unemployment rate's going up because people are coming back into the market looking, then that's a good sign, frankly. I think for a while we shouldn't really view a rise in the unemployment rate as a negative if it accompanies an increase in the labor force, because it means that something must be going on. People must be hearing there are opportunities."

There are 10.5 million unemployed workers in the U.S., and more than a third of them have been out of work for six months or longer.

The U.S. jobless rate has been steadily declining over the last four-plus years as the country recovers from its worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930's.

But economists have noted that some of the improvement in the unemployment rate has occurred because thousands of job seekers have been unable to find work and dropped out of the labor market, and thus are not counted by the government as unemployed.

Even as U.S. stock market indexes have soared to new highs, many American businesses have been reluctant to significantly boost their payrolls. Employers added only 129,000 jobs in January and 84,000 in December, after averaging 189,000 over the past year.

The country's central bank, the Federal Reserve, is watching the U.S. economic trends to see whether it should continue to trim its direct support of the American economy. Last year, the Fed had been buying $85 billion worth of securities a month in an effort aimed at keeping long-term interest rates low and boosting job growth, but now has cut the figure to $65 billion.

Fed policy makers, including new chair Janet Yellen, are meeting again later this month. Glassman says he thinks the Fed will continue to cut its asset purchases and end them in late 2014.

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