Mar 8, 2021 - Economy

Despite booming jobs number, little changed in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. added 379,000 jobs last month, more than double what economists had expected and more than seven times the number of jobs added in January, however, a key theme from Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was the fact that little has changed.

What they're saying: "Both the unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 10.0 million, changed little in February," BLS analysts said in the Employment Situation Summary.

  • "Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively)."

Go deeper: "The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 6.1 million, changed little in February but is up by 1.7 million over the year."

  • "In February, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.9 million, little changed over the month but up by 1.9 million over the year."
  • "Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million, was essentially unchanged in February but is up by 453,000 over the year."

Yes, but: BLS also noted that bad weather was a factor, which suggests hiring could pick up further going forward.

  • Deutsche Bank economists now predict "the February employment print was merely a warm up for what will likely be several months of even stronger job gains ahead as the economy begins to emerge from the pandemic and another wave of fiscal stimulus boosts demand."

Yes, but, but: The economists also note that the unemployment rate "drastically understates the extent of labor market slack and the lack of improvement in many labor market metrics."

  • Further, "even if payroll gains were to average 700k per month going forward, it would still take two years for the labor market to fully regain its pre-Covid trend."

One level deeper: Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, calculated that employers would need to add an additional 2.4 million jobs to make up for those that would have been gained if COVID-19 had not derailed the economy.

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