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A visual look at some important details from the US jobs report

By Matt Phillips
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

We all know the headline numbers were really strong, with 236,000 new jobs created in February as the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, the lowest since December 2008. Here’s a look at some details, with quotes taken from the BLS release.

Retail hiring continues

This is a good sign that retailers think the consumer can hold up despite the payroll tax increase, rising gasoline prices and sequester uncertainty.

“Employment continued to trend up in retail trade in February (+24,000). Retail trade has added 252,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Employment also continued to trend up over the month in food services and drinking places and in wholesale trade.”

Construction contributes

We’ve been telling you not to sleep on the housing recovery for a while. We saw the biggest gain in construction jobs since March 2007.

“In February, employment in construction increased by 48,000. Since September, construction employment has risen by 151,000. In February, job growth occurred in specialty trade contractors, with this gain about equally split between residential (+17,000) and nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+15,000).”

Low participation

The decline of the unemployment rate to 7.7% looks like a good thing. But the labor force participation — that is the chunk of working age people who are either employed or looking for a job — declined slightly. And it’s been on a downtrend pretty much since the recession hit. This is a worry for folks, including those at the Federal Reserve, who think that the high unemployment due to the recession could become embedded structurally in the economy. That’s because the longer people are out of work, the tougher it is for them to get back into the labor force.

Hourly earnings

Hourly earnings don’t change a lot. But they’ve been picking up steam lately, posting solid monthly increases for six months in a row. This is a good thing, as earnings income increases will help offset some of the pressure on consumers that have come in the form of higher gasoline prices and the increase in payroll taxes.

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