Labor report: Jobs increase, joblessness steady

Job growth continues to accelerate in the United States even as joblessness remains at a 17-year low.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls swelled 313,000 in February, the biggest monthly gain since July 2016 and the 89th consecutive month for increases.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent for a fifth straight month. Average hourly earnings continued to rise.

Along with the increase in payrolls for February, job gains in January and December were bigger than initially estimated. The estimate for January was revised up 39,000 to 239,000. The estimate for December was revised up 15,000 to 175,000.

Given the latest numbers, nonfarm payrolls have increased an average of 242,000 a month over the past three months.

Still, 6.7 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in February. Of those, 1.4 million had been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 5.2 million were counted among those working part time because their hours had been reduced or they’d been unable to find full-time positions.

The labor force participation rate rose three-tenths of a point to 63 percent.

Job gains in February were spread out among a number of industry sectors. Payrolls grew 61,000 in construction, 50,000 in both retail trades and professional and business services and 31,000 in manufacturing. Employment increased 28,000 in financial activities, 19,000 in health care and 9,000 in mining.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls edged up a tenth of an hour to 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing work week rose two-tenths of an hour to 41 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 4 cents to $26.75. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 68 cents or 2.6 percent.