Employment Surges by 678,000 in February 2022

Job growth beats estimates by up to 70%, unemployment rate falls, wages stable

The U.S. economy added 678,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in February 2022, as the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%. Largest job gains for the month were observed in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, healthcare, and construction.

Job growth far exceeded estimates, which ranged from 400,000 to 440,000. The forecast unemployment rate was 3.9%, marginally above the actual level.

Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. economy added 678,000 new jobs in February 2022.
  • The was far above the estimates, which ranged from 400,000 to 440,000.
  • The unemployment rate fell to 3.8%.
  • Average hourly wages were virtually unchanged from January.

Unemployment Rate Falls

The unemployment rate in February 2022 of 3.8% was down from 4.0% in January, while the number of unemployed persons fell from 6.5 million to 6.3 million. As another point of comparison, in February 2020, prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, and the number of unemployed persons was 5.7 million.

Temporary Layoff and Permanent Job Loss Picture

Among the unemployed, those on temporary layoff were 888,000 in February 2022, and this figure was little changed from January. Permanent job losers numbered 1.6 million in February 2022, also little changed over the month. Both measures exceeded their February 2020 levels of 780,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.

Long-Term Unemployment Unchanged

The number of long-term unemployed (people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more) remained at 1.7 million, the same figure recorded in January. However, it is 581,000 higher than the pre-pandemic measure in February 2020. The long-term unemployed represented 26.7% of the total number of unemployed in February 2022.

Labor Force Participation Up Slightly

The labor force participation rate in February 2022 was 62.3%, up slightly from 62.2% in January. The employment-to-population ratio also rose by a small degree, from 59.7% to 59.9%. The pre-pandemic figures in February 2020 were 63.4% and 61.2%, respectively.

Number of Potential Job Seekers Decrease

The number of persons who were not in the labor force but who would like to take a job fell by 349,000 to 5.4 million in February 2022. This figure was 5.0 million in February 2020. These people were not classified as unemployed since they either were not actively looking for work during the four weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job. The number of discouraged workers, those who believed that no jobs were available for them, fell slightly during the month, from 408,000 in January 2022 to 391,000 in February.

Earnings and Working Hours Largely Stable

In February 2022, the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by just 1 cent to $31.58, following large increases in recent months. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.1%.

Meanwhile, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 34.7 hours in February. In manufacturing, the average workweek was up by 0.4 hour to 40.7 hours, and overtime increased by 0.2 hour to 3.6 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 34.1 hours.

Biggest Job Gains by Industry

The biggest job gains for February 2022 were concentrated in these industries: leisure and hospitality (+179,000 jobs), professional and business services (+95,000), healthcare (+64,000), construction (+60,000), transportation and warehousing (+48,000), retail trade (+37,000), manufacturing (+36,000), financial activities (+35,000), social assistance (+31,000), other services (+25,000), wholesale trade (+18,000), and mining (+9,000). These industries combined to add 637,000 jobs, or 94.0% of the February total of 678,000.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employment Situation Summary."

  2. CNBC. "February Jobs Rose a Surprisingly Strong 678,000, Unemployment Edged Lower While Wages Were Flat."

  3. CNN. "Economists Expect a Strong Jobs Report Friday. What If They're Wrong Again?"

  4. Reuters. "Solid U.S. Job Gains Forecast in February; Unemployment Rate Seen Dipping to 3.9%."

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