When factoring in the number of part-time workers who would rather be working full time and those who have given up looking for work, the percentage of “underemployed” people dropped to 15.9 percent in February. That’s the lowest in nearly two years.
The positive news on the hiring front comes as the larger economy is gaining momentum.
Americans shoppers are spending more. U.S. exporters are selling more abroad. Manufacturing is growing at the fastest pace in nearly seven years. And the service sector, which employs about 90 percent of the work force, is expanding at the fastest clip in more than five years.
The 192,000 jobs added in February was a significant improvement from the 63,000 notched in January. Some of the boost came as people resumed work, after dropping off payrolls because of bad weather in January. Still, the gains were widespread.
Factories added 33,000 jobs. Education and health care added 40,000 positions. Professional and businesses services added 47,000. Leisure and hospitality added 21,000 jobs. Construction companies, 33,000 jobs – although a good chunk of those reflected people coming back on payrolls after January’s harsh winter weather; Transportation and warehousing added 22,000 jobs.
The number of “long-term” unemployed, people out of work six months or more, sank to 5.99 million, a decline of 217,000 from January.
Workers’ paychecks were mostly flat. Average hourly earning rose to $22.87 in February, up only one cent from January. Workers have little bargaining power to demand big pay raises because the weak jobs market.
And rising gasoline prices are putting more pressure on Americans’ pocketbooks. Gasoline is averaging close to $3.50 a gallon nationwide. Higher prices can force consumers to cut back spending on other things. That has the potential to slow the recovery and hiring.
By Jeannine Aversa, for AOL Jobs