Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
Nonfarm payrolls edged down a slight 36,000 (changes of plus or minus 100k are needed for significance) in February, following a decrease of 26,000 in January. On net, back revisions (to the two previous months) added 35,000. Concerning the snow storms, the BLS added a technical note explaining that in order for the weather to have affected the estimates, employees must have been sidelined (not paid) for any part of that pay period (about half the survey has a pay period longer than one week). Also, there might have been additions due to hirings for snow removal, making any determination on the net effects of the storms “not possible to quantify precisely.” Turning to the details of February’s report, private payrolls fell 18,000, compared to losses of 33,000 in January and 83,000 in December. Construction employment saw the worst of it during the month, slipping down 64,000, and has now fallen by 1.9 million since December 2007. Manufacturing payrolls were essentially flat in February. The service side added 42,000 workers in February. As gains in temporary help services (up 48,000), education (up 12,000), and health services (up 20,000) more than offset losses in information industries (down 18,000), transportation (down 12,000), and financial activities (down 10,000). Federal government payrolls added 7,000 in February, mostly as temporary hiring for the Census (plus 15,000) offset a decline in postal service employment (down 9,000). Local government payrolls continue to shed workers, cutting 31,000 in February, and have trimmed 156,000 (or 1.1 percent) over the past year. Average weekly hours of production and nonsupervisory workers slipped down 0.2 hour to 33.1 hours, though this was largely due to a large decrease in construction hours, slipping from 37.8 hours to 36.8 hours, which the BLS noted likely reflected the “unusually severe winter storms.”
On the household side, the number of unemployed persons was virtually unchanged in February, and the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent (analysts expected a slight uptick to 9.8 percent). Also, the employment-to-population ratio improved for the second consecutive month, ticking up 0.1 percentage point (pp) to 58.5 percent in February.