WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States added 227,000 jobs in February, again surprising economists with the breadth and brawn of the economic recovery. The country has put together the strongest three months of pure job growth since the Great Recession.
The unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent. It was the first time in six months that the rate did not fall, but that was only because a half-million Americans, perhaps finally seeing hope in the economy, started looking for work.
The Labor Department also said Friday that December and January, already two of the best months for jobs since the recession, were even stronger than first estimated. It added 61,000 jobs to its total for those two months combined.
Economists were expecting February job growth of 210,000.
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“Overall, another very strong payroll report and there’s every chance that March will bring more of the same,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist with Capital Economics, an economic consulting company.
Since the beginning of December, the country has added 734,000 jobs. The only better three-month stretch since the recession was March through May 2010, when the government was hiring tens of thousands of temporary works for the census.
Stocks rose steadily through the morning. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 48 points to 12,956. Last week, it closed above 13,000 for the first time since May 2008, four months before the financial crisis.
The improving jobs picture figures to improve the re-election chances for President Barack Obama and to complicate the political strategy for the Republicans competing for the right to replace him.
Obama was traveling Friday to a manufacturing plant run by Rolls-Royce, the maker of aircraft engines, in Virginia, which is expected to be closely contested in November. He planned to propose steps to help manufacturers create products and jobs.
Hiring in February was broad-based and improved in both high-paying and low-paying industries. Manufacturing, mining and the professional services industry, which includes accounting work, all added jobs.
And government — federal, state and local — cut only 6,000 jobs in February and a revised 1,000 in January. Last year, they cut an average of 22,000 jobs a month, taking some of the economic punch out of job creation in the private sector.
In all, 142.1 million Americans reported that they had a job in February, the highest since January 2009, during the depths of the recession. Manufacturing payrolls are the highest since April 2009.
And over the past three months, the number of employed people has risen by 1.45 million, the biggest three-month gain since March 2000.