The U.S. economy created 295,000 jobs in February, defying expectations that the bitter winter weather in the Northeast might significantly depress job growth, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5%.
February jobs’ report marks the 12th consecutive month that the economy has added more than 200,000 jobs per month, indicating that the pace of the recovery has gained steam and that the economy is in a robust period of economic expansion.
The unemployment rate dropped 0.2% from January. But that may be partly because fewer people are actively looking for work:, as February’s labor force participation also dropped slightly from the previous month.
But despite stronger growth and a tightening labor market, wage growth remains tepid, rising only 0.1% in February, with average hourly earnings inching up just 3 cents to $24.78.
Recent moves by Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, and T.J. Maxx to raise retail employees’ wages had fueled optimism that wage gains would be on the horizon for other American workers as well. But February’s job report makes it clear that’s not happening yet.
The report also made downward revisions to the last month’s solid job gains: January’s numbers were revised downward to 239,000, which is 18,000 lower than the Bureau of Labor Statistics initially reported.