First the good news: U.S. employers added 227,000 net new jobs in February, making it the third straight month of 200,000+ new jobs. Additionally, the Commerce Dept. reported wages were up ever-so-slightly, another positive sign.
Perhaps the most important signal, though, was news that the unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent despite an influx of workers into the labor force. (Quick primer: The unemployment rate is the percentage of job-seekers who are unemployed; if you are unemployed but not actively seeking work, you are not counted as ‘unemployed’ according to Commerce. With the rebounding economy, more and more unemployed Americans who previously might have been too discouraged to even look for work are re-entering the job market. In a nutshell, today’s news means that the economy is adding enough jobs to match the number of people entering the labor force – a very good sign.)
IHS Global Insight Chief U.S. Economist Nigel Gault says as much: “The unemployment rate remained stuck at 8.3%, after five successive declines, but that wasn’t bad news, because both employment and the labor force jumped higher.”
Now for the not-so-good news. Yesterday, the state released its January employment report, showing that the unemployment rate actually increased from 8.2% in December to 8.3% in January (note that in January, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 8.5% to 8.3%). Folks, this is the first time in months that the Empire State’s unemployment rate has been equal to the national rate.
In the Hudson Valley, the private sector added 13,100 jobs from Jan. 2011 to Jan. 2012, increasing at a modest 1.9 percent clip. During that same period (Jan. 2011 to Jan. 2012) the private sector nationally added jobs at a 2.1 percent rate. That slowdown in the Hudson Valley came despite a mild winter, which helped the construction and real estate industries.