Jobs report surprise: 313000 added in February

Stocks Waver as Trump Unveils Tariffs

Employers added 313,000 net new non-farm jobs last month, the biggest monthly increase since July 2016, while the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent for the fifth month in a row, according to the Labor Department's highly anticipated monthly report. US employers have also benefited from a strengthened global economy.

The Fed is considered certain to raise rates when it next meets in two weeks.

The pace of hiring has picked up recently. Large businesses (500 or more employees) gained 70,000 jobs, and small businesses (one to 49 employees) 66,000 jobs, it said.

Manufacturing, meanwhile, maintained a course of steady growth in February, increasing by 31,000 jobs, with majority sprouting in transportation equipment (8,000) and fabricated metal products (6,000).

"In spite of the modestly softer February figure, for the first two months of the quarter, the headline average hourly earnings number is increasing at a 3.3 percent annual rate, which would make it the strongest quarter of the expansion", said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in NY.

This buoyant print - the highest monthly jobs increase since October of 2015 - shattered Wall Street expectations of a gain of 205,000 positions.

The labor force increased by 2,200 from 3,657,300 in December, as 3,900 more residents were employed and 1,700 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. The company, based in Parkville, Missouri, just outside Kansas City, makes data analysis software that helps restaurants track costs and work schedules.

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But it offered "a false picture of a "Goldilocks" economy" for financial markets, she said in a research note. "There are more IT jobs and not as many people".

Steel and aluminum producers would presumably hire more people. But revisions to December data on construction spending, factory orders and wholesale inventory have suggested the fourth-quarter growth estimate could be raised to a 3.0 percent pace.

During 2017, the stock market, as measured by the S&P 500 index, surged 19 percent, partly on anticipation of corporate and individual tax cuts.

National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicted the positive job report would likely influence the Federal Reserve's decision later this month to raise rates, thus setting in motion an uptick in mortgage rates that could affect housing affordability this year.

There have been some signs that price pressures are picking up. Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers, which economists say are better measured, increased 0.3 percent in February. Midland had the lowest unemployment in Texas during January at 2.4 percent.

Top officials are hoping the move of workers off the sidelines and into jobs will mean more output and income for the USA without wage and inflation pressures becoming so intense that central bank decides it must to hit the brakes on economic growth.

The housing market, too, remains generally solid, with demand for homes strong in much of the country, though rising mortgage rates may begin to slow sales.

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