Nonfarm employment grew by 678,000 in February — the most jobs the national economy has added since July 2021 — according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With cases of the infectious COVID-19 omicron variant on the decline, February’s job gain shattered projections from Reuters-polled economists, who forecast an increase of 400,000 jobs. Additionally, the newly released data revealed that 92,000 more jobs than initially reported were created this past December and January, further solidifying the strength of the economy even as ongoing headwinds such as inflation persist and new ones (such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict) arise.
Jobs remain down by 2.4 million from the pre-pandemic level in February 2020, but widespread job growth in several sectors continue to offer reason for optimism. In particular, leisure and hospitality employment jumped by 179,000 in February, pushed by hiring activities in food and drink establishments (up 124,000) and accommodation (28,000). Other segments with strong hiring last month include professional and business services (up 95,000) and health care (64,000).
Directly related to the housing sphere, construction added 60,000 jobs in February, bouncing back after gains were flat the previous month. About three-quarters of this gain occurred in specialty trade contracting, with increases in both residential (up 24,000) and nonresidential (up 20,000) building.
February’s jobs report also provided some signals that the tight supply of workers is easing. The labor-force participation rate was essentially flat, inching upward to 62.3%, but the unemployment rate fell to 3.8% and is nearing the February 2020 pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%.