U.S. economy adds 242,000 jobs in February, beating expectations

The United States added 242,000 new jobs in February and the unemployment rate stayed steady at an eight-year low of 4.9 per cent.

Average earnings decline slightly but participation rate jumps

America's jobless rate is at its lowest level in eight years. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The United States added 242,000 new jobs in February and the unemployment rate stayed steady at an eight-year low of 4.9 per cent.

New data out of the Bureau of Labour Statistics Friday showed the American job market was far more robust than anticipated last month. The consensus view among economists polled by Bloomberg was for America to have added 195,000 jobs.

More people in the work force too

While the overall numbers were undeniably strong, there were some small reasons for concern in some of the underlying numbers. Despite the large number of new jobs, the data agency reported that average earnings declined slightly, by 0.1 per cent during the month.

That's the first time that's happened since 2014.

"The one soft spot in the report was wage growth," Toronto-Dominion Bank economist James Marple said. "Average hours worked also pulled back 0.6 per cent."

On the other hand, the participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age people in the labour force, jumped to 62.9 per cent. That's the highest level since January 2015.

"The improvement in the labor force participation rate is particularly encouraging," Marple said. "This is not an economy on the brink of recession."

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