The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday morning that 311,000 jobs were added in February, yet the unemployment rate move up to 3.6 percent. Wall Street had estimated that 205,000 jobs would be added and unemployment would sit at 3.4 percent.
February's announcement of 311,000 jobs, despite beating estimates, was still below the average of 343,000 jobs added per month over the previous six months, showing some slowing to the job market that has remained incredibly tight as the United States works to put COVID-19 behind it.
BLS noted that "the number of unemployed persons, at 5.9 million, edged up in February," and the "number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 343,000 to 2.3 million in February," reversing a decrease seen in January's jobs report. Meanwhile, 4.1 million people were employed only part-time for economic reasons and 5.1 million Americans who currently want a job were not in the labor force.
Overall, the labor force participation rate was essentially unchanged at 62.5 percent in February, but remains below the pre-pandemic rate of 63.3 percent seen in February 2020 — another refutation of President Biden's promise to "Build Back Better."
The February jobs report saw monthly wage growth advance 0.2 percent for an annual increase of 4.6 percent, still lagging behind inflation. The most recent data from the Consumer Price Index showed inflation jumping 0.5 percent in January and 6.4 percent over the previous 12 months, outpacing the wage growth reported in the jobs report for February, meaning Americans' real wages continue to run negative.
Still, another better-than-expected jobs report will do little to persuade Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve to back off interest rate hikes at their next meeting later in March or into the months ahead. As Townhall reported earlier this week, Powell delivered his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress — and he didn't have good news.
Admitting that inflation was still burning hotter than expected, Powell said the Federal Open Market Committee, which makes interest rate adjustment decisions, expected "ongoing increases will be appropriate" and said the "ultimate level of interest rates is likely to be higher than previously anticipated" as the Federal Reserve prepares "to increase the pace of rate hikes" — even though the Fed has already hiked rates to their highest level since the 2007-2008 financial crisis in just the last 12 months. That kind of talk from Powell sent stocks tumbling earlier this week.
Additional economic data for February will be released next week, with the Consumer Price Index coming on Tuesday and the Producer Price Index coming on Wednesday, giving a better look at inflation that showed increases and acceleration in 2023 so far — if that trend continued in February, the Fed is likely to take that as a sign it needs to ramp up its interest rate hikes again after easing off the .75 increases toward the end of 2022.