Nonfarm payroll employment rose in February and the nation's unemployment level fell for the third straight month, inching down to 8.9%.
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics
said the economy added 192,000 jobs last month with gains in a handful of sectors.
The consensus figure from an Econoday
survey forecast 200,000 new jobs
with a range of estimates between 120,000 and 275,000. Analysts surveyed by the website Briefing.com
were expecting an increase of 220,000
jobs for February.
Employment rose in manufacturing, construction, professional and business services, health care, transportation and warehousing in February. Nonfarm payrolls have added 1.3 million jobs, or about 106,000 a month, since reaching a recent low in February 2010, according to the Labor Department.
After climbing to 9.8% in November, the unemployment rate has declined for three months. Although the number of people marginally attached to the labor force in February rose to 2.7 million from 2.5 million a year earlier. The Labor Department doesn't count these people as unemployed because they haven't looked for a new job in at least one month.
The number of unemployed Americans
remained roughly 13.7 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised nonfarm payroll figures for the last month of 2010 and first month of 2011. The increase for December rose to 152,000 from a previously reported 121,000. The initial gain of 36,000 new jobs in January
was revised to an increase of 63,000.
On Wednesday, Automatic Data Processing Inc.
said the private sector added 217,000 jobs in February
, up from 189,000 for the first month of 2011, which was revised upward a few thousand. For December, ADP, which conducts the monthly survey in conjunction with Macroeconomic Advisers
, initially said private-sector employment rose by a record 297,000 jobs for the largest monthly gain since the firm began tracking the data in 2000. Then in January, ADP revised the figure for December down to 247,000.
Some analysts and market watchers, including Macroeconomic Advisers, initially raised a suspicious eye toward the ADP data for December.
Chief U.S. Economist Paul Ashworth questioned if the ADP survey "can be trusted" to provide an accurate indication of the federal data. His firm projected nonfarm payrolls to add of at least 193,000 new jobs in February.
Dan Kozor, senior loan officer with Prospect Mortgage
in the Chicago area, said earlier this week the ADP numbers have been so far off the government data "it is surprising their opinion has any credibility."
Write to Jason Philyaw