The brisk hiring in February and rising wages set the stage for an interest rate hike this month by the Federal Reserve. Fred Katayama reports.
Brisk hiring in February. Employers added 235,000 jobs in the U.S. That was far more than economists had expected. and the previous two months' gains were revised upward. The unemployment rate inched down to 4.7 percent. Accompanying the job gains: steady growth in wages, up 2.8 percent year over year. Wage growth could accelerate with the economy near full employment. Economists say the strong jobs data could move the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates next week despite slowing economic growth. Fed Chair Janet Yellen signaled last week that a rate increase was likely. RBC Capital Markets chief U.S. economist Tom Porcelli said, "This report is consistent with an exceedingly healthy labor backdrop, and I think more critically, it's a number that will embolden the Fed to raise rates in March." Nearly all sectors added jobs last month. Unusually warm weather drove construction payrolls higher; that sector notched its biggest gain in nearly 10 years. Manufacturing added jobs, especially at food and machinery makers. But retailers reversed January's gains. Macy's and J.C. Penney and others have announced thousands of layoffs as they shrink their stores and shift activity online. This jobs report marked the first one issued under the new Trump administration.