(CNSNews.com) - The number of Americans not in the labor force last month totaled 93,688,000, 374,000 fewer than the 94,062,000 not in the labor force in January--and the labor force participation rate also improved, with 62.9 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population either holding a job or actively seeking one.
In the past 12 months, the highest labor participation rate was 62.8 percent in February and May 2015; the lowest was 62.4 percent in September 2015, and that 62.4 percent was the lowest in 38 years.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy added 242,000 jobs in February (compared with a revised 172,000 in January), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent for the second month in a row.
In February, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population, consisting of all people 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 252,577,000. Of those, 158,890,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.
The 158,890,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.9 percent of the 252,577,000 civilian noninstitutional population.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.5 percent), adult women (4.5 percent), teenagers (15.6 percent), Whites (4.3 percent), Blacks (8.8 percent), Asians (3.8 percent), and Hispanics (5.4 percent) showed little or no change in February.
On the negative side, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 3 cents in Feburary to $25.35, following an increase of 12 cents in January.
The Labor Department reported  on Thursday that initial claims for unemployment insurance have been below 300,000 for a solid year. The last time this happened was in December 1973. In the first half of 2009, more than 600,000 laid-off workers were applying for unemployment insurance benefits each week.
Another Labor Department report noted that in 2015, annual average unemployment rates decreased in 47 states and the District of Columbia; increased in 2 states; and were unchanged in 1 state, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate -- 2.7 percent in 2015, followed by Nebraska and South Dakota -- 3.0 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. Nevada and West Virginia had the highest jobless rates among the states at 6.7 percent each. The District of Columbia had a rate of 6.9 percent.
Republican candidates discuss jobs
Here's what the various Republican presidential candidates said about jobs and job-creation at the debate in Detroit Thursday night:
Businessman Donald Trump noted that he has "employed tens of thousands of people," and he said, "I am going to bring jobs back to the United States like nobody else can." He did not offer specifics.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the private sector creates jobs. "The jobs of those of us in public service are to put in place policies that allow the economy to grow.
"That's the problem with the Democratic Party. They think government is what creates jobs. Government does not create jobs.
"Now, the way you create jobs is you make America the easiest and the best place in the world to start a business or to expand an existing business. If you go on my website, marcorubio.com, you will see a real plan to fix our taxes, to roll back regulations, to repeal and replace Obamacare, not just lines around the states. Serious policies and proposals."
Sen. Ted Cruz said as president, "I will repeal every word of Obamacare. I will pull back the regulators that are killing small businesses. And we will pass a simple flat tax and abolish the IRS.
"And what that's going to do...is small businesses are going to explode. We are going to see millions of high-paying jobs. We are going to see wages going up. We are going to see opportunity. That's where our focus needs to be. That's where my focus is..."
"Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, "When you have commonsense regulations, lower taxes on individuals and businesses, and you have a fiscal plan that makes sense, the job creators will expand employment. And what happened? When I was there, the jobs were exploding. Bill Clinton's tried to take credit for it. When I went to Ohio, we're up 400,000 jobs. It's the same formula.
"But it isn't easy. I fought the entire Washington establishment and won, because when you balance a budget, you must affect every single thing. Everything in the federal government specifically. You cannot get there with theories or broad statements, and you have to be willing to take the heat. In fact, I fought a Republican president, who I thought was not offering constructive proposals to fix this economy.
"So when we talk about all this, there's one person on this stage and one person who's been a candidate for president in either party that restored economic strength, growth, a balanced budget, paid down debt, cut taxes, the things that people in this country want. No theories. Reality."