February’s jobs report had a little something for everyone.
For workers, there were jobs; for employers, there were workers filling shortfalls caused by the pandemic; for the Federal Reserve, there were indications that the labor market was loosening and wage pressures were easing.
Then again, the total of 311,000 net jobs added was significantly higher than expectations of 205,000, and the unemployment rate surprisingly grew to 3.6%.
The report was a “mixed bag” at a time when the Fed — which this week signaled a more hawkish approach after a strong batch of recent economic data — is weighing to go lighter or heavier on rate hikes.
Here are some takeaways from Friday’s report:
January wasn’t a fluke and the labor market remains strong
Economists were anticipating that January’s blockbuster 504,000 net job gain was an anomaly due to a combination of factors such as annual data adjustments, warm weather and employers hoarding workers.
But the US labor market in February showed that, overall, it remained fairly resistant to the Fed’s yearlong barrage of interest rate hikes. The latest employment snapshot from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed only a slight downward revision to the January jobs total.
“This report, it’s not about the Federal Reserve, it’s not about inflation, it’s about you; it’s about how workers are doing,” said Claudia Sahm, founder of Sahm Consulting and a former Fed economist. “And once again, we had a month in which we were adding jobs on net, and this is really good for workers.”
There are also encouraging signs for employers, she said, noting some of the biggest gains were in industries that have been suffering from the deepest shortages since the pandemic.
The leisure and hospitality industry added 105,000 jobs in February, accounting for 34% of the entire month’s total gains and putting the sector that much closer to matching its pre-pandemic levels. As of February, the leisure and hospitality industry was 410,000 jobs, or 2.42%, shy of February 2020 employment levels, a CNN analysis of BLS data shows.
“Right now, we’re still in a phase of getting back to normal in terms of not having labor shortages, not having the costs of serving customers rise and rise,” Sahm said. “I would much rather see us get back to normal by workers coming back as opposed