Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 678,000 in February, and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported March 4. In February 2020, prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and the number of unemployed persons was 5.7 million.
Although total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 678,000 in February, it is down by 2.1 million, or 1.4 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. Job growth was widespread in February, led by gains in leisure and hospitality (+179,000), professional and business services (+95,000), health care (+64,000), construction (+60,000), transportation and warehousing (+48,000), retail trade (+37,000), manufacturing (+36,000), financial activities (+35,000), social assistance (+31,000), and in other services (+25,000). Wholesale trade also added 18,000 jobs while mining added 9,000. Employment showed little or no change over the month in information and government.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (4.4 percent) declined in February. The jobless rates for adult women (3.6 percent), teenagers (10.3 percent), Whites (3.3 percent), Blacks (6.6 percent), and Asians (3.1 percent) showed little or no change over the month.
Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff, at 888,000 in February, was little changed over the month. The number of permanent job losers, at 1.6 million in February, also changed little. Both measures are higher than their February 2020 levels of 780,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.
In February, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks declined by 286,000 to 2.1 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.7 million. This measure is 581,000 higher than in February 2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 26.7 percent of the total unemployed in February 2022.
The labor force participation rate, at 62.3 percent in February, changed little over the month. The employment-population ratio edged up to 59.9 percent. Both measures remain below their February 2020 levels (63.4 percent and 61.2 percent, respectively).
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons increased by 418,000 to 4.1 million in February but remains below its February 2020 level of 4.4 million. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.
The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job declined by 349,000 to 5.4 million in February. This measure is above its February 2020 level of 5.0 million. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job.
Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.5 million, changed little in February. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was little changed over the month at 391,000.
COVID-specific data. In February, 13.0 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 15.4 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey specifically because of the pandemic.
In February, 4.2 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 6.0 million in the previous month. Among those who reported in February that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 20.3 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, down from 23.7 percent in January.
Among those not in the labor force in February, 1.2 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, down from 1.8 million in the prior month. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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