U.S. jobless rate decreases as payrolls increase

The U.S. unemployment rate continues to fall even as payrolls increase.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, the national jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent in February, the lowest level since April 2009. At the same time, nonfarm payrolls increased 192,000, the largest monthly gain since June 2010.

With declines in each of the last three months, the unemployment rate has dropped nearly a point since November.

Moreover, initial estimates of payroll gains for January and December were revised upward a total of 55,000.

Over the past year, nonfarm payroll employment has grown 1.3 million for an average monthly gain of 106,000. That average still falls short of the 130,000 new jobs most economists say are needed each month to meet the demands of a growing population and keep the jobless rate steady.

For February, professional and business services added 47,000 net jobs,  while health care employment rose 34,000 and the manufacturing and construction sectors each added 33,000 jobs. Employment services added 29,000 jobs and transportation and warehousing employment rose 22,000.

State and local government payrolls edged down.

The average workweek for employees on private nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.2 hours. The average manufacturing work week rose a tenth of an hour to 40.5 hours.

The average hourly earnings of employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged up a cent to $22.87. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 1.7 percent.