U.S. hiring accelerates with another 273,000-job gain

The pace of hiring has picked up with an estimated addition of 273,000 jobs to United States payrolls in each of the last two months.

The unemployment rate edged down a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent in February, matching its lowest level in 50 years.

According to the latest Department of Labor report, increases in nonfarm payrolls hit 273,000 for a second straight month in February, outpacing an average monthly gain of 178,000 in 2019. February and January tied for the best month for gains since May 2018.

The initial estimate for payroll gains for January was revised upward 48,000 to 273,000. The December estimated was revised upward 37,000 to 184,000. The revisions bring the three-month average for job gains to 243,000.

For February, 5.8 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 1.1 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Another 4.3 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate held steady at 63.4 percent, the highest proportion of the working-age population working or actively seeking employment since 2013.

Payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors in February. Employment increased 57,000 in health care, 53,000 in food services and at drinking places, 42,000 in construction, 32,000 in professional and technical services and 26,000 in financial activities. Government payrolls increased 45,000.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls edged up a tenth of an hour to 34.4 hours. The average manufacturing workweek rose two-tenth of an hour to 40.7 hours.

Average hourly wages on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 9 cents to $28.52. Hourly wages have increased 3 percent over the past year.