Posted on 05 Mar 2010
U.S. nonfarm payrolls declined for the 25th time in the past 26 months, falling by 36,000 in February to a seasonally adjusted 129.5 million, the Labor Department estimated Friday.
The nation's jobless rate was steady at 9.7% as the number of people employed rose by 308,000, according to the household survey.
Severe snowstorms during the survey week may have depressed the payroll count, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics said it could not quantify the impact.
Ahead of the report, economists cautioned against reading too much into the data, in light of the likely impact of the storms. It'll take until April before a clean count can be given.
"This is a fairly strong employment report," wrote John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros, economists for RDQ Economics. "There is plenty of evidence that the storms had a major impact on the labor market and, therefore, that this trend-like decline in jobs actually masks a significant increase in employment."
The number of people with jobs who said they couldn't work because of bad weather rose to 1.03 million, the highest since the Blizzard of 1996. The average for February is about 290,000.
Total hours worked fell by a seasonally adjusted 0.6%, likely due to weather-related shutdowns.
Some analysts said the labor market remained weak, with or without the storms. "What we see in this report is essentially a job market on pause," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "The pace of decline has slowed dramatically, but jobs are not being created to put this country's nearly 15 million unemployed back to work."
Job losses in February were concentrated in construction, schools, transportation, insurance and publishing. Manufacturing job rolls rose by 1,000, the second increase in a row, according to a survey of businesses.
The February employment report was better than expected, as economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a drop of 90,000. They expected the unemployment rate to rise to 9.8%.