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U.S. Job Growth Far Exceeds Estimates In February

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Reflecting a significant rebound in employment in the leisure and hospitality industry, the Labor Department released a report on Friday showing much stronger than expected U.S. job growth in the month of February.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment jumped by 379,000 jobs in February after climbing by an upwardly revised 166,000 jobs in January.

Economists had expected employment to increase by 182,000 jobs compared to the uptick of 49,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The stronger than expected job growth was primarily due to a rebound in employment in the leisure and hospitality industry, which added 355,000 jobs.

The report showed smaller job gains in temporary help services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing, while employment declined in state and local government education, construction, and mining.

"Even with upward revisions to the gain in January and the strength last month, employment is still 9.5 million short of the pre-pandemic level, with 3.5 million of those jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector specifically," said Paul Ashworth, Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, "Nevertheless, with COVID case numbers still falling sharply, more large-scale fiscal stimulus on the way and the vaccination program likely to reach critical mass before mid-year, the U.S. is well-placed to recover a significant number of those lost jobs this year."

With the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate unexpectedly edged down to 6.2 percent in February from 6.3 percent in January. Economists had expected the unemployment rate to remain unchanged.

The unexpected dip in the unemployment rate came as household employment rose by 208,000 persons compared with a 50,000-person increase in the size of labor force.

The modest decrease pulled the unemployment rate down to its lowest level since hitting 4.4 percent last March, when coronavirus-related lockdowns began to take effect.

The Labor Department also said average hourly employee earnings crept up $0.07 or 0.2 percent to $30.01 in February. Annual wage growth was unchanged from the previous month at 5.3 percent.

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