U.S. job growth starts to pick up steam

U.S. JOB GROWTH STARTS TO PICK UP STEAM…. After last month’s terribly disappointing jobs numbers, those hoping for an economic recovery desperately wanted to see a stronger report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning. Fortunately, we got one.

America’s job engine has picked up some steam last month.

The nation’s employers added 192,000 jobs on net in February, after having added just 63,000 jobs the previous month, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The February number was about what economists had been forecasting.

“Economic recoveries can be like a snowball rolling down a hill, in that it takes time to get some momentum,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “People hesitate until they feel that the recovery’s durable enough, and then they have a tendency to jump in. Maybe we’re finally getting to that jumping-in moment.”

The overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.9%, its lowest point in nearly two years. The 192,000 jobs created in February was the highest since last May.

Also note, the total would have been even higher had it not been for state and local budget cuts — the private sector added 222,000 jobs, but the public sector lost 30,000 jobs. Those were jobs that could have been saved were it not for conservative fiscal policies.

Nevertheless, this new jobs report is genuinely encouraging. The median estimate among economists was that the economy would add 185,000 jobs, and the actual number managed to top that. To be sure, to have robust growth that would bring the unemployment rate down in a hurry, we’d need to see even stronger employment numbers, but given the hole we’ve been in, what we’re looking for a significant steps in the right direction. That’s exactly the news we received today.

Just as encouraging, the totals from December and January were both revised upwards, with December’s totals revised to 152,000, up from 121,000, and January’s totals revised to 63,000 from 36,000.

From a purely political perspective, policymakers would ideally look at figures like these, and consider ways to keep the momentum going. Regrettably, congressional Republicans continue to fight for spending cuts that are projected to cost the U.S. economy 700,000 jobs. This morning’s report should offer Washington a big hint: if we want more good news, the GOP plan needs to be rejected.

Once again, here’s the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

jobs_feb11.jpg