Nationwide unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent, 12 million remain unemployed

Online Staff Report

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 236,000 in February, and the unemployment rate edged down from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported March 8. Employment increased in professional and business services, construction and health care.

The unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent in February but has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012. The number of unemployed people, at 12 million, also edged lower in February.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for whites (6.8 percent) declined in February while the rates for adult men (7.1 percent), adult women (7.0 percent), teen-agers (25.1 percent), blacks (13.8 percent) and Hispanics (9.6 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.1 percent, little changed from a year earlier.

In February, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was about unchanged at 4.8 million. These individuals accounted for 40.2 percent of the unemployed.

The employment-population ratio held at 58.6 percent in February. The civilian labor force participation rate, at 63.5 percent, changed little.

The number of people employed part-time for economic reasons, at 8 million, was essentially unchanged in February. These individuals were working part-time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In February, 2.6 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, the same as a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.

Among the marginally attached, there were 885,000 discouraged workers in February, down slightly from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are people not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.7 million people marginally attached to the labor force in February had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

The February increase of 236,000 was higher than the average for the previous three months, when employment rose by an average of 195,000 per month.

Professional and business services added 73,000 jobs in February; employment in the industry had changed little (plus 16,000) in January. In February, employment in administrative and support services, which includes employment services and services to buildings, rose by 44,000. Accounting and bookkeeping services added 11,000 jobs, and growth continued in computer systems design and in management and technical consulting services.

In February, employment in construction increased by 48,000. Since September, construction employment has risen by 151,000. In February, job growth occurred in specialty trade contractors, with this gain about equally split between residential (plus 17,000) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (plus 15,000). Nonresidential building construction also added jobs (plus 6,000).

The health care industry continued to add jobs in February (plus 32,000). Within health care, there was a job gain of 14,000 in ambulatory health care services, which includes doctors’ offices and outpatient care centers. Employment also increased over the month in nursing and residential care facilities (plus 9,000) and hospitals (plus 9,000).

Employment in the information industry increased over the month (plus 20,000), lifted by a large job gain in the motion picture and sound recording industry.

Employment continued to trend up in retail trade in February (plus 24,000). Retail trade has added 252,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Employment also continued to trend up over the month in food services and drinking places and in wholesale trade. Employment in other major industries showed little change over the month.

In February, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls edged up by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours. The manufacturing workweek rose by 0.2 hour to 40.9 hours, and factory overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.4 hours.

The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.2 hour to 33.8 hours.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $23.82. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.1 percent. In February, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 5 cents to $20.04.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised from plus 196,000 to plus 219,000, and the change for January was revised from plus 157,000 to plus 119,000.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported March 7 that the statewide unemployment rate stood at 9 percent in January. The Rockford metro area’s unemployment rate was 11.2 percent in December 2012. Local data for January will be released March 14.

Posted March 8, 2013

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