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Job growth surges in February but incomes stay flat

One economist calls it a bizarre set of numbers

Photo (c) Jirsak - Getty Images
If you were looking for a job last month, chances are you found one.

The Labor Department reports the U.S. economy added 313,000 non-farm jobs in February, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1 percent.

The economy added jobs in construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities, and mining.

However, fewer workers got raises last month. The report shows wages rose just .01 percent. Economist Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors, calls it a "bizarre" set of numbers, noting that job growth was through the roof while wages went nowhere.

"The increases (in jobs) were not just in unskilled sectors, so it is hard to understand why businesses have been saying they cannot find qualified workers," Naroff told ConsumerAffairs. "The rise in average hours worked was surprising given the large number of new workers. That implies a huge increase in total hours worked, which would indicate growth was also robust."

Report full of surprises

Naroff says the report is full of surprises. For example, he wonders why retailers suddenly added 50,000 new workers. And those 61,000 new construction workers, he says, could disappear in March if weather remains nasty.

"Let’s just say this was a really amazing report but before we get too carried away, let’s see what happens in March," Naroff said. "I am glad to see all the jobs added, but I am cautious about whether anything close to this level gain is at all supportable."

Among demographic groups, the jobless rate for African Americans fell to 6.9 percent but remained fairly steady for all other groups. The number of long-term unemployed -- those out of work for 27 weeks or more -- was essentially unchanged at 1.4 million. The labor force participation rate, while still very low, rose 0.3 percent last month.

After the gains in construction and retail, sectors posting the biggest job additions were professional and business services -- up 50,000 -- and manufacturing, which added 31,000 jobs.

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