As companies settle into the new year and return to their normal operations following a hectic holiday season, little change has come on the employment front. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the February numbers remained relatively unchanged concerning employment throughout many industries in the nation.
The unemployment rate rose over the course of the month, nudging up to 6.7 percent. While this number is slightly higher than January’s reported rate, it is still one of the lowest the country has seen since 2008. According to data compiled by FactSet, experts believed the unemployment rate would remain stable at 6.6 percent, but a number of factors may have affected the moderate elevation, including delays caused by weather, which may have prevented a number of workers from seeking employment or physically attending their jobs.
Overall, total nonfarm payroll employment added 175,000 jobs, which allowed economists room to breathe after a series of low numbers. Analysts have been disappointed that since December, hiring has been much lower than what they have predicted. However, the February report exceeded expectations for the first time in three months.
Researchers believe the string of winter storms may have affected the employment estimates for the month. The report states that this weather could have affected the data in several ways, including the methods by which numbers were recorded and the average weekly hours worked by employees. The Star Tribune reported that severe weather has had a grasp on hiring practices for the last three months, especially within the automotive, real estate and manufacturing industries – all of which should be reporting higher employment numbers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, this minimal change may also be due to the economy slowing down as a whole. The source quoted Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve Chairwoman, who spoke to lawmakers at the end of February.
“A number of data releases have pointed to softer spending than analysts had expected,” Yellen said, according to the journal. “That may reflect in part adverse weather conditions, but at this point it is difficult to discern exactly how much.”
Despite the fact that these conditions may have adversely affected February hiring, industry experts believe them to be temporary, and predict that March will post better numbers. In addition, federal officials plan to continue cutting back stimulus and bond spending in order to further strengthen the economy, which may lead to a larger number of employees joining the workforce. According to Reuters, the central bank reduced monthly bond purchases by $10 billion last month, an action they are expected to repeat when they reconvene in mid-March.
While a number of obstacles affected February employment, several sectors experienced positive growth in February. Professional and business services saw the most improvement, adding nearly 79,000 jobs in accounting, temporary and building services. Wholesale trade, food services, construction and health care also reported marginal increases in hiring. Some sectors saw negative growth – including retail trade and information – but for the most part, numbers remained unchanged.
The report also adjusted figures from December and January. While neither month reported an impressive increase in hiring, the statement noted that 129,000 positions were added last month, up from the original estimate of 113,000. Although this addendum still falls short of economists’ prediction for the month, it is much better than what the original report stated.