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US Unemployment Drops Slightly; Economy Gains 235K Jobs

  • Jim Randle

FILE - A restaurant posts a sign hoping to draw in job applicants, in Miami, Florida, Feb. 9, 2016. The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy had a net gain of 235,000 jobs for the month of February.

The U.S. economy had a net gain of 235,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percent to 4.7 percent.

Friday's report from the Labor Department was stronger than most economists expected. Some experts say it takes around 100,000 jobs a month to accommodate new entrants to the work force.

A survey of accountants who manage companies across the nation shows firms "are now looking to expand," according to Ash Noah of AICPA. He tells VOA there is "pent-up" demand for labor.

Job gains were seen in private education, manufacturing, health care, mining and construction. The Associated General Contractors of America said construction employment jumped by the largest number since 2008. The National Council of La Raza said the construction hiring may have helped cut the unemployment rate for Latinos to 5.6 percent.

On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the report "Great news for American workers." Since President Donald Trump has previously called official jobless numbers "phony" and "complete fiction," Spicer joked with reporters that the figures may have been "phony in the past, but they are very real now."

WATCH: Jobs Report 'Real Now,' Spicer Says

The tight job market means companies may have to start raising wages to attract and keep the best workers. Friday's report said wages rose about 2.8 percent over the past year, which is a stronger gain than the previous month, and stronger than inflation.

Top officials of the U.S. central bank have said they are watching the labor market closely, and the strong report may encourage them to raise interest rates. The Federal Reserve meets next week to debate interest-rate policy, and is scheduled to make an announcement Wednesday.

PNC Bank economist Gus Faucher says rates will go up one-quarter of one percent because the labor market is where the Fed "wants it to be." Officials slashed rates to near zero during the recession to boost growth and fight unemployment.

While the latest job data is stronger than expected, it also shows that 7.5 million Americans are still unemployed. Another 5.7 million who want to work full-time can only find part-time employment. The government figures count people as unemployed if they are available for work and tried to find a job sometime in the past four weeks. The figures do not count as officially unemployed those who stay home to raise children, those who are enrolled in school or those who have retired.

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