Labor update: Jobs up, jobless rate down

The latest jobless rate edged downward, in part because some people stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted among the unemployed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payrolls increased 295,000 in February with gains spread across industry sectors. The unemployment rate slipped two-tenths of a point to 5.5 percent.

The initial estimate for job gains in January was revised downward 18,000 to 239,000, but the December gain of 329,000 remained unchanged.

With the latest numbers, U.S. payrolls have increased an average of 266,000 a month over the past year.

Still, 2.7 million people were counted among the long-term unemployed who’ve been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 6.6 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours have been cut or they’re unable to find full-time jobs.

Employment in food services and at drinking places increased 59,000 in February, while professional and business services added 51,000 jobs. Payrolls increased 32,000 in retail trades, 29,000 in construction and 24,000 in health care. The transportation and warehousing sector added 19,000 jobs, while manufactures added 8,000 positions.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.6 hours for a fifth straight month. The average manufacturing workweek held steady at 41 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 3 cents to $24.78. Over the past year, hourly earnings have increased 2 percent.