The last couple of employment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggested considerable weakness in the U.S. labor market, but there were various confusing and conflicting signals that made many of us expect better numbers ahead.
From the BLS today:
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 175,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in professional and business services and in wholesale trade but declined in information.
That’s solid job growth — considerably faster than we need to keep track of inflation. The unemployment rate was actually up very slightly from 6.6 percent last month, but that was probably good news, as an additional 264,000 Americans joined the labor force. The participation rate stayed steady at 63 percent — it’s been right around that number for months now.
The important U-6 measure of unemployment (“Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force”) fell to a seasonally adjusted 12.6 percent from 12.7 percent in January. In Feb. 2013, the rate was 14.3 percent.
So this is a pretty good report all the way around. A couple of graphs from the BLS, and then one from Calculated Risk, so you can see the deep hole that the national economy has been climbing out of: