February Employment Right in Line with Prior Two Years

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Saturday, 09 March 2013 08:51

I hate to spoil the party over the big February jobs numbers, but I guess I've always been more of a data geek than a party guy. Yes, 236,000 is better than expected and not a bad number in the scheme of things. But folks with a little bit of memory would be slower to bring out the champagne bottles. We created 271,000 jobs last February and 196,000 jobs in February of 2011. That makes the average for the prior two years 234,000, almost exactly the same as yesterday's job number.

Last year the story, as I said at the time, was that unusually good winter weather gave a boost to the February numbers. We didn't see snowstorms shutting down major cities across the Northeast and Midwest as we would in a typical winter. That story probably applies to some extent this year as well, even if Boston did take a hit over a mid-February weekend.

The 48,000 new jobs in construction would certainly be consistent with this story. You can believe that construction employment is growing at a 10 percent annual rate or that we saw a weather driven fluke in February. I vote for the latter, but we will have more information in another month.

Btw, if we take the 191,000 average rate of job growth over the last 3 months, we would not make up our 9 million jobs deficit until well into 2020. Things certainly could be worse, but that is not a terribly bright picture.