Unemployment Drops to 7.7%, Best in More Than Four Years

...four-year swing of +917,000

...236,000 of them in February
Paul Brandus (Mar. 8, 2013)

Much better than expected jobs and unemployment reports: the Labor Department says 246,000 private sector jobs were created in February, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7% - the lowest level since December 2008. Since 10,000 government jobs were cut, total job growth was 236,000.

The numbers – well beyond what most analysts were expecting – come despite serious economic headwinds such as the end of the payroll tax cut, gasoline prices that have never been this high at this time of year, and uncertainty over the federal government’s sequester – large and indiscriminate budget cuts.

A deeper dive into the data:

• February unemployment: Men 7.1%; Women: 7.0%; Whites: 6.8%; Blacks: 13.8%; Hispanics: 9.6%; Asians: 6.1%; Teens 25.1%

• Total unemployed: 12.0 million; number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks+) 4.8 million

• Employment-population ratio (the % of total working age of the work force employed to the total working age population): 58.6% - no change

• The labor force participation rate (the % of workforce that has a job or is looking for one) dropped to 63.5% in Feb. from 63.6% in Jan.

• Two key data points show an improving economy: people worked longer hours for more pay (avg. hourly earnings up 4 cents)

• The broader unemployment rate declined to 14.3% in Feb. govt. says. Definition

• As usual, a strong link between education & jobs: Unemployment for ages 25+ with no HS degree: 11.2%. Those w/BA or higher: 3.8% (Feb.)

• Unemployment rate for those with no high school diploma fell to 11.2% from 12.0% - a big drop for that hard-hit group. Year ago: 14.8%

Finally, this bit of context: in Feb. 2009, the economy lost 681,000 jobs. In Feb. 2013: it gained 236,000. That's a four-year swing to the upside of 917,000 jobs.

-Paul Brandus

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