The US added 678,000 jobs in February.
Largest Jobs Gains Since Last July
The economic recovery from the COVID pandemic is clearly expressing itself as resilient. February added 678,000 jobs and unemployment dropped to 3.8% from 4% in January. Overall, the economy has gained 19.9M jobs since the pandemic low in April 2020 when 20.5M jobs were lost in just one month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Gains Widespread in February
The economy has now recovered more than 90% of payroll jobs lost during the early months of the pandemic. Some of the hardest hit areas by the pandemic now are bouncing back.
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In February 2022, some of the industries making the largest rebounds included:
- Bars and restaurants – +124,000 jobs
- Construction companies – +60,000 jobs
- Factories – +36,000 jobs
“Omicron, which is now fading across most of the country, did not have as much of an economic impact as was expected,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist with ADP. “But, it may have had an effect on keeping some workers on the sidelines, due to health concerns.”
Even though the workforce grew by 304,000 people in February, the share of prime-age people working or looking for work is still below pre-pandemic levels. In January 2021, 83.1% of workers were working…in February 2022, 82.2% of workers were working.
Employers Paying More
With so many “Help Wanted” signs still everywhere and anywhere, it’s no wonder employers are paying more in hopes of attracting more workers. Average wages in the private sector gained +5.1% last month than one year ago.
Workers in traditionally low-wage industries are seeing some of the biggest upticks in wages. For example, average wages during February in restaurants and hours were +11.2% higher than last year at this time.
Fed Gearing Up to Raise Interest Rates
Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that he expects the Fed to begin raising interest rates, likely by a quarter percentage point, in mid-March at the Fed’s next meeting March 15-16 to focus on inflation, now the highest in nearly 40 years.
Powell said, “Unemployment is low. Wages are going up. The labor market is quite healthy, And inflation is too high (7.9%). We’re accountable for inflation and we’re going to use our tools to bring it down.”
Of course, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will factor into the Fed’s actions concerning inflation. Already, the conflict has increased prices for energy and wheat sharply and the conflict also threatens to slow economic growth.
Jay Bryson, chief economist with Wells Fargo, said, “On the one hand, you have an inflation rate that’s significantly higher than what the Fed would like to see. But on the other hand, you have all these uncertainties as it relates to what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine right now. So they (the Fed) are not on auto-pilot. They’ll be paying very, very close attention to what’s going on.”
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Thanks to National Public Radio.