United States employers added 313,000 jobs in February, the biggest monthly increase since July 2016, according to the latest data from businesses and government agencies collected by the Labor Department.
Neil Dutta, an economist at Renaissance Macro, said Friday that, "The February employment report was an absolute knock out with strong growth in payroll employment and a sharp increase in labor force participation". February was the fifth month in a row that the US unemployment rate was at 4.1 percent, which is also a 17-year-low, according to the Labor Department.
Employment gains were led by the construction sector, which added 61,000 jobs, the most since March 2007. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.1% month-on-month and 2.6% year-on-year. A majority of economists - 42% - surveyed by Bankrate.com are expecting four or more rate hikes this year; 37% are projecting three increases.
Employees worked more hours last month, which also may have played a role in the wage numbers.
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Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs, with 4,000 new positions in primary metals manufacturing added even before the administration imposed new steel and aluminium tariffs to benefit the industry.
Also, the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December 2017 was revised up from +160,000 to +175,000, and the change for January was revised up from +200,000 to +239,000, the Bureau said in a statement.
The figures from the labor department smashed the 200,000 forecast from economists. "We saw a flood of job seekers into the market".
On top of the exceptionally strong February, the job gains in December and January were revised up by a combined 54,000, bringing average monthly job creation to a strong 242,000 a month for the latest three months.
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Markets likely will react badly to a further rise in wage growth, especially if pay gains reach 3%, according to Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group.
Job growth has been consistently strong. As a result, retail employment rose after the seasonal adjustment, the department said.
Though the unemployment rate is low, broader measures of unemployment are still elevated, suggesting there is still slack in the labor market that firms can draw from to increase worker output without very aggressively bidding up wages.
The unemployment rate stayed at 4.1%, the lowest in 17 years.
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The steadier monthly average of claims climbed by 2,000 to 225,500, but was just slightly higher than its 50-year low.