March 11, 2013 – The unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent in February, but the fact that many workers left the labor force contributed to the improvement, along with the gains in non-farm payrolls, NAFCU Chief Economist David Carrier said.
The recovering housing market helped prop up positive employment numbers in February, Carrier noted, and improvements were seen across several other industries as well. However, these broad-based gains were partially offset by declining government employment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday reported an increase of 236,000 non-farm payrolls in February. January’s numbers were revised down 38,000 to 119,000; December’s were revised up 23,000 to 219,000.
The unemployment rate, which is derived from separate data, fell to a post-recession low of 7.7 percent in February, but Carrier noted some caveats. “While the employment situation is headed slowly in the right direction,” he said, “the economy is still roughly 3 million workers below pre-recession levels, and federal spending cuts could work their way through to the labor market later in the year.”
Carrier said he expects to see modest growth in private sector employment and continuing declines in government employment for the near future, and “only small changes” in the unemployment rate. For the full break-down on February employment data, get the Macro Data Flash report (login required).