February Jobs Report

The BLS’s employment report came out this morning, and it showed a strong gain in employment for the first time in several months:

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 262,000 in February and the unemployment rate edged up to 5.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Job growth occurred in both goods-producing and service-providing industries.

This is a good number, and a hopeful sign of coming improvement in the labor market. But we need a few more months like this before we can really conclude that the labor market is improving. Before this report, 6 of the last 8 months showed job gains that barely kept up with the growth of population in the US (estimated to be about 140-150 thousand new workers per month). As a result, the employment-population ratio — the percent of people over 16 who actualy have jobs –has not yet begun to rise from the very low levels of the past few years, as the following chart shows.

A few more good jobs reports like this will help push this ratio higher… though of course one shouldn’t count on anything in this labor market.