US adds 236,000 jobs in Feb, unemployment falls to 7.7%

08 March 2013 14:15  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US economy added 236,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department said on Friday, a much higher gain than expected and strong enough to lower the nation’s jobless rate to 7.7% from January’s 7.9% reading.

In its monthly report on hiring and unemployment, the department said that job gains in February were highest in professional and business services, construction and health care.

The increased employment in construction, up by 48,000 jobs, is seen to reflect the slowly improving US home building industry. 

Construction, especially new home building, is an important downstream consuming sector for chemicals and resins.

The department said that while the jobless rate edged down to 7.7% in February, the nation’s overall unemployment pace has shown little net movement since September last year.

In normal economic times, the US unemployment rate would be around 5% or lower.

Economists had been expecting jobs growth in February to be in the range of 150,000 to 170,000, so the department’s actual figures took many by surprise.

The gain of 236,000 jobs also raises the prospect that the jobless rate could be lowered further in months ahead – if the February pace of jobs growth can be maintained or improved.

The US must generate around 150,000 jobs each month just to accommodate new workers entering the employment market.  Consequently, jobs growth above that level means that an increasing number of laid-off workers might be able to return to the workforce.

However, to make major headway in reducing the unemployment rate, economists say the US would need to add 300,000 to 350,000 jobs per month for multiple successive quarters.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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