The Labor Department reported this morning that non-farm payrolls rose by 236,000 in February. The unemployment rate edged lower to 7.7% as the number of people in the labor force dipped slightly. January job gains were revised downward by 40k jobs, but December’s job growth was revised up.
Business services, construction and health care led February’s job growth. Despite the bump in construction, unemployment in that industry remains at 15.8%.
The hiring boost in February came amid doomsday talk about the impact of across-the-board federal spending cuts. The warnings had little effect on employers, however, as hiring expanded by more than the monthly average last year. February’s gain, while modest compared to other recoveries, it is just at the level to accommodate population growth.
Talk of broad federal spending cuts did not spook the economy. In fact, employers picked up their pace of hiring. The spending cuts, however blunt their implementation, may signal finally that Washington will get its fiscal house in order. The veil of uncertainty may be lifting.