Jobs Added in February

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American businesses are on a hiring spree.

The figures from the labor department smashed the 200,000 forecast from economists. December's jobs numbers went from 160,000 to 175,000.

Already, unemployment is below the Fed's current estimate of a "natural" rate of 4.7 percent - a level that it expects to remain more or less stable past 2025.

The recovery from the Great Recession has been plagued by tepid wage growth of about 2 percent a year. The Dow fell 666 points the day of the January report. The 2.9% pace of growth was revised down to 2.8%, showing that wages picked up but not as quickly as initially thought.

Markets whipsawed last month as new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's first testimony before Congress made it appear certain that the Fed would hike rates four times this year - instead of the three hikes indicated in December.

For example, more Americans are coming off the sidelines and looking for work, reversing a trend from the first few years after the downturn when numerous unemployed gave up on the job hunt and stopped looking. Over the past 14 months, the US economy has added 195,714 each month on average-a strong figure. But that measure is marred by secular demographics - namely, retiring baby boomers.

"We're heating up, but there's still plenty of room to pull more Americans back into the workforce", says Guy Berger, chief economist at LinkedIn. And in a more lasting way, they've been a major mystery for the Fed throughout the latter part of this expansion, because they haven't accelerated even as unemployment has fallen.

With their biggest worry eliminated, traders were able to focus on a blockbuster headline number of 313,000 jobs added in February.

Clothing and general merchandise retailers hired less than they were expected to before the holidays but afterwards laid off fewer workers than expected, resulting in apparent gains for the sector after seasonal adjustment, the report said.

Financial activities added 28,000 jobs over the month, with gains in credit intermediation and related activities (+8,000); insurance carriers and related activities (+8,000); and securities, commodity contracts, and investments (+5,000).

In February, construction employment increased by 61,000, with gains in specialty trade contractors (+38,000) and construction of buildings (+16,000). But those gains would be more than offset, Trade Partnership calculates, by sharp job losses among companies that use the metals, such as automakers, packaged food companies and those that make industrial machinery. "Stock markets are reacting accordingly", said Harm Bandholz, chief US economist at UniCredit Bank in NY. Overall, the United States economy is in its third-longest expansion in history, surpassed only by periods of growth in the 1960s and 1990s.