BLS: Employment up 313000; unemployment rate unchanged

Californias unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in January- the lowest figure since 1976

Employers added 313,000 jobs in February, the most since July 2016, keeping the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1, the Labor Department said Friday.

The latest report marks the 89th consecutive month of job growth, a trend that began in late 2010, as the economy began to pick up steam in the wake of the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

The California unemployment rate for January was reported at 4.2 percent, up from 4.0 percent in December, while nationally the jobless rate was listed at 3.9 percent for the third straight month.

Wage figures were the biggest focus for investors ahead of this report as an acceleration in wage gains is seen as portending an increase in inflation, which could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise rates more aggressively than markets expect.

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"The headline number is pretty outstanding", says Cathy Barrera, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, a job recruitment site. "(Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged 242,000 over the last 3 months". Beyond retail, labor markets continued to strengthen in all industries in February, and more jobs throughout the economy will mean more consumers shopping in retail stores. The proportion of people in their prime working years (25 to 54) who are working is at its highest level since 2008.

While wage gains are good for employees, they add to inflationary pressures and could lead to a rise in interest rates that would increase the cost of borrowing for employers. But it's a volatile measure. Still, the unemployment rate for African-Americans remains stubbornly higher than the rates for other racial and ethnic groups. Hispanic unemployment is still near its low. However, the January rate compares with 4.6 percent for California and 4.5 percent for the nation. The share of Americans participating in the labor force rose by 0.3 percentage point to 63.0% in February. That's where it was in February.

In January, when the year-over-year rate of growth in average hourly earnings rose to 2.9 percent, it even sparked a mini-panic in the stock market, contributing to a broad reassessment of inflation risks in the economy. A more market-friendly annual pace of hourly pay growth would be 2.8% or 2.7%, he adds. Most of those new job seekers found work in February, leaving the number of unemployed little changed.

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