The US economy added 236,000 jobs last month, with construction and health care being two big contributors. However, 12 million Americans are still officially counted as unemployed.
The US economy added 236,000 jobs in February, and unemployment fell to 7.7 percent of the workforce, adding to signs of steady job-market momentum despite the burden of higher gas prices and tax hikes.
The job numbers, released by the Labor Department, come as the US stock market is also showing investor optimism about the economy. The Dow Jones industrial Average has hit record levels this week, and it rose a bit Friday morning after the jobs report.
In addition to releasing the February numbers, the government revised its tally of new jobs in January (down to 119,000) and December (up to 219,000).
“The economy is moving in the right direction and is weathering the storm of various fiscal headwinds it is currently facing with considerable resilience,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at the data firm Markit, in a report analyzing the new figures.
Even as the jobless rate edged down, however, 12 million Americans are officially counted as unemployed, and still more will seek employment if the job market strengthens further.
So the economy could use a lot more jobs.
What types of employers have been creating jobs?
In February, the categories of “professional and business services,” construction, and health care led the way, with gains equal to about two-thirds of the new jobs.
Here’s a longer-term look at major job sectors tracked by the Labor Department:
Professional and business services. From architects to administrative assistants, this sector is a bulwark of today’s service economy. It has added 488,000 jobs in the past 12 months.
Trade, transportation, and utilities. This sector has added 448,000 jobs in the past year, largely as a growing economy needs more people moving and stocking goods.
Leisure and hospitality. This sector, with everything from restaurants and hotels to professional athletes, has added 323,000 jobs in the past year. Artists and entertainers alone are up by 32,000.
Health care. This has been the juggernaut of the job market, adding jobs through thick and thin. In hospitals, nursing homes, and other venues, this sector has added 300,000 jobs in the past 12 months. More impressive, it has added 1.7 million jobs since February 2007, before the recession. (By contrast, many sectors still show job declines compared with 2007 levels.)