Job Gains Continue, but Concerns Remain

By Toni Vranjes

March 6, 2015

The February jobs report contained mixed news, as payrolls increased by 295,000, but the size of the labor force declined by 178,000.

The jobless rate last month dropped by 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent, pushed down by the shrinking labor force. Also, average hourly earnings increased by 3 cents, rising by 2 percent over the year, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Since late 2009, the growth rate has been “essentially unchanged,” IHS Global Insight economist Doug Handler wrote in an analysis.

Handler wrote that, “two lingering issues with the quality of the labor market reappeared:  the supply of labor and wage growth.”

The 295,000 new jobs came from a broad array of industries. Within the leisure and hospitality segment, food and drinking places created nearly 59,000 jobs. Lower energy and gasoline prices contributed to higher employment at restaurants, according to the IHS analysis.

Employment in professional and business services was up by 51,000. “Firms providing legal, accounting, computer and technical consulting services gained significantly,” Handler wrote.

The economy also added jobs in construction, health care, and transportation and warehousing.

Meanwhile, employment fell by 9,000 in mining. Handler stated that lower-energy prices had a negative effect in this category, noting the loss of 7,400 jobs in mining support activities, and another 1,100 lost jobs in oil and gas extraction.

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