Unemployment rate holds steady

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE HOLDS STEADY…. For about two weeks now, administration officials and economists have been warning everyone who would listen: the unemployment numbers for February would be ugly. Goldman Sachs predicted the economy lost as many as 100,000 jobs in February, due almost entirely to the series of winter storms. The New York Times‘ Floyd Norris said the other day that he expects “a truly horrid” report.

With those expectations in mind, the numbers released this morning were discouraging, but not quite as discouraging as some had feared.

In total, the economy shed 36,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department reported, from 26,000 jobs in January, and the jobless rate held steady at 9.7 percent. Economists said those losses may have been affected somewhat by a series of winter storms in mid-February which shut down much of the East Coast, but the Labor Department said that the affect [sic] of the weather could not be quantified.

The job losses reported Friday were less than the consensus estimate of a 68,000 decline for February. […]

“If you recognize it as one frame in a movie, it is one in which we are moving toward resumption of job growth,” said Alan Levenson, chief economist for T. Rowe Price, an investment firm. “The labor market is healing.”

In terms of revised estimates, December’s job totals were revised up a little, while January’s were revised down a little.

Over the last couple of weeks, the effect of recent blizzards was emphasized as a way to explain the monthly job totals. Barclays Capital Weekly Global Economics Report, for example, said the other day, “While we see weather as having only modest effects on the quarterly profile, we think it will have a much more dramatic effect on the monthly data.” Larry Summers told CNBC earlier this week, “The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics.”

I suspect the actual report will be seen as something of a relief — a drop of 36,000, as awful as that is, is better than just about anyone predicted.

And with that, here once again is the homemade chart I’ve been running the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession:

jobsfeb09.png