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The U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate remained 8.3%.
The Labor Department said large gains in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and mining jobs drove the monthly gains, which came in higher than most analysts' estimates. The economy added jobs the past three months and the unemployment rate is down from 9.1% in August.
Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected 204,000 new jobs in February with a range of estimates between 180,000 and 275,000.
Private-sector employment rose by 233,000 jobs in February, while government jobs fell by about 6,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. In 2011, federal, state and local governments shed an average of 22,000 jobs each month.
Retail employment was mostly unchanged in February, although general merchandise stores cut 35,000 jobs last month to offset an increase of 23,000 in January.
After two months of gains, construction employment fell by 14,000 jobs last month.
The federal agency revised gains in nonfarm payrolls for January up to 284,000 from a prior reading of 243,000. The Labor Department also increased the December tally to 223,000 from 203,000.
The number of unemployed Americans in February remained flat with the prior month at about 12.8 million, with the long-term unemployed, or those without jobs for 27 weeks or more, down slightly to 5.4 million, or about 42.6% of the unemployed.
The unemployment rate hit 9.8% in November 2010 and hovered around 9% for most of 2011 before declining the last few months.
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