U.S. payroll gains top 200,000 for third straight month

U.S. payroll gains have topped 200,000 for three consecutive months.

But with more people back in the hunt for jobs, the unemployment rate remains unchanged. According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls rose 227,000 in February with gains spread across a range of industry sectors.

Initial estimates for job gains for the previous two months also were revised upward a combined 61,000 to 223,000 in December and 284,000 in January. Total gains over the past three three months have been the largest since early 2006.

After retreating eight-tenths of a percent since August, the U.S. unemployment rate held steady in February at 8.3 percent. The addition of nearly 500,000 people to the labor force who were looking for jobs helped keep the jobless rate from moving lower.

The number of people counted among the unemployed remained essentially unchanged at 12.8 million in February. The number of people who’ve been out of work for more than 27 weeks similarly held steady at 5.4 million.

The private sector added an estimated 233,000 net new jobs in February.

Professional and business services added 82,000 jobs, more than half of those in temporary services. Employment in health care and social services rose 61,000, while payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector grew 44,000.

Meanwhile, manufacturers added 31,000 jobs and employment in the mining sector advanced 7,000. Payrolls in construction, retail trades and government was little changed.

The average hourly workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours in February. The average hourly workweek for manufacturers edged up a tenth of an hour to 41 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 3 cents to $23.21 in February. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have climbed 1.9 percent.