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Healthcare, Government Lead February Job Gains

Healthcare and government employment led the U.S. economy’s job gains in February.

These sectors led the pack as total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 275,000 in February, topping the average monthly gain of 230,000 over the previous 12 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a Friday (March 8) press release.

The gain exceeded the expectations of economists. The economists surveyed by Dow Jones had forecast a gain of 198,000 jobs, CNBC reported Friday.

The healthcare sector added the most jobs in February, according to the BLS press release. The sector’s addition of 67,000 jobs was higher than its average monthly gain of 58,000 over the prior 12 months.

Government employment saw the second-highest monthly gain, with its addition of 52,000 jobs being about the same as the 12-month average of 53,000.

Food services and drinking places made the third-highest gain, adding 42,000 jobs in February after seeing little change in employment over the previous three months.

Other sectors adding jobs in February included social assistance (24,000), construction (23,000), transportation and warehousing (20,000) and retail trade (19,000).

Despite the gains in transportation and warehousing during the month, the BLS said in the release: “Employment in the transportation and warehousing industry is down by 144,000 since reaching a peak in July 2022.”

Other major industries saw little change in employment during February, per the release.

The BLS also reported Friday that for February, the unemployment rate was 3.9%, up from 3.7% the previous month and 3.6% a year earlier; the labor force participation rate was 62.5, unchanged from the previous two months and little changed from a year ago; and the average hourly earnings was $34.57, up by 0.1% from the previous month and 4.3% over the past year.

In a statement provided to PYMNTS, Curt Long, vice president of research and chief economist at America’s Credit Unions, said the results from the February jobs report “were somewhat soft, though not alarmingly so.”

“The unemployment rate climbed to its highest level in two years, and while the establishment survey indicated that payrolls grew by a healthy 275,000, January saw a sharp downward revision,” Long said. “Wage growth slowed in February, but average hours worked increased.”

“Overall, this report brings a rate cut more firmly into view, which the Fed will most likely deliver in the second quarter,” Long added.