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Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 9.7%

A newly released U.S. Department of Labor report showed the economy lost 36,000 last month, holding the national unemployment rate at 9.7%.

While few analysts were looking for increases, they do point to the fact that the overall “rate” of jobs lost appears to be decelerating from the dramatic losses experienced a year ago. Analysts also note the U.S. Department of Labor's figures are still open to revision, as was the case with January, which initially showed a loss of 20,000 positions, only to be revised upward by 30% to 26,000.

Following is a breakdown of the losses per category:

Construction employment fell by 64,000 in February, about in line with the average monthly job loss over the prior 6 months. Job losses were concentrated in nonresidential building (-10,000) and among nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-35,000). Meanwhile, employment in the information industry dropped by 18,000 in February.

Employment in manufacturing was essentially unchanged in February. Small job gains in a number of component industries were offset by job losses in motor vehicles and parts and in chemicals.

Retail trade employment was unchanged in February, after a sizeable increase in January. Over the month, job gains in building material and garden supply stores (7,000) and in department stores (6,000) were offset by declines in food and beverage stores (-9,000).

The numbers continue to improve in the category of temporary help services, which added 48,000 jobs. At the same time, health care employment continued to trend upward in February. Ditto for employment by the federal government, which hired 15,000 temporary workers for Census 2010. Note: This was partially offset by a decline in U.S. Postal Service employment.

Other key data: In the week ending February 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 469,000, a decrease of 29,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 498,000. The 4-week moving average was 470,750, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week's revised average of 474,250. Additionally, the number of persons working part time for economic reasons—sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers—increased from 8.3 to 8.8 million in February, partially offsetting a large decrease in the prior month.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, payroll employment has fallen by 8.4 million.
 

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