The February jobs report was the best in months, with unemployment falling to 7.7 percent and a stunning 236,000 added to nonfarm payrolls. Like we always do at this time, let's break it down a little further, chart-style.
Unemployment and jobs gained
The 236,000 jobs gained figure is the best in months, as this outstanding interactive from my colleagues on the Post graphics team makes clear:
These weren't great months for public sector groups, though. Continuing a long-standing trend, we lost 10,000 public jobs in February, and the January number was revised up to 21,000 jobs lost:
Labor force participation
For the first time in months, labor force participation changed. Sadly, it ticked downward, from 63.6 percent to 63.5 percent, signaling that those who left the labor force during the downturn aren't coming back yet, if they ever do:
As we explain every month, the BLS releases six unemployment measures. There’s U3, the number that shows up in all the news articles, which counts people who don’t have jobs but have looked for one in the past four weeks. But there are also U1, U2, U4, U5 and U6. U1 and U2 numbers are usually lower than U3, and they measure the percentage of people who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer and the percentage who have lost jobs or done temporary work during the month being measured, respectively.
The figures for U4, U5 and U6 are usually higher than for U3. Each of these categories includes everyone in all the lower categories: All people in U3 are in U4; all people in U4 are in U5; and all people in U5 are in U6. U4 adds people who have stopped looking for work because they’ve concluded that none is available. U5 adds people who would like to work but for whatever reason have not looked for work recently. U6 adds the underemployed, or part-time workers who want to be working full-time but cannot for whatever reason.
Apart from U-1, every measure ticked down in February, with U-2, U-4, U-5, and U-6 falling 0.1 points and U-3 falling 0.2 points:
Job sectors were hit to varying degrees by the downturn. Construction took the heaviest hit, while health and education were barely hurt at all. All private-sector industries gained jobs in February, with "professional and business services" gaining the most, while the public sector lost 10,000:
Last but not least, year-over-year wage growth in the private sector remained at 2.1 percent, above the Fed's inflation target and the actual rate of inflation in recent months. That suggests that, at long last, wages are finally growing in real terms: