Friday, March 5, 2010

U.S. employment grows 850,000 since December

This morning's employment report contains some very encouraging news. The monthly household survey indicates that the number of employed people has grown by 850,000 in the last two months, on a seasonally-adjusted basis. In December, the number of employed people was estimated to be 137.79 million, and last month, the number had climbed to 138.64 million.

Importantly, employment growth is finally outpacing population growth. The percentage of people 16 and over who were employed grew from 58.2 in December and 58.5 in February.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent, but even this is relatively good news, as the number of people entering the civilian labor force increased substantially in February. Nearly half a million people have been added to the labor force since December. The number of people who have recently lost jobs is down, while the number of people who are re-entering the labor force is up.

The estimates from the establishment survey were more mixed. The survey indicated that 36,000 jobs were lost on a seasonally-adjusted basis, with these losses coming equally from the private and public sector. The establishment number can differ from the household number because of the different survey coverage (the establishment survey has a harder time tracking small business employment, especially new businesses), multiple job holding (7.1 million people in the household survey held two or more jobs), survey dates, and survey noise.

From the establishment survey, private service industry jobs were up in February. Private goods-producing jobs increased or were flat in most industries; however, a large drop in construction jobs, possibly tied to the winter storms in February, pulled down the overall number. Government jobs were down due to a fall in local education jobs.

Overall, the figures indicate that the job market is turning the corner and that the recovery is solidly, though not spectacularly, underway.