BLS: Unemployment Rate, Labor Force Participation, Number of Employed Best Showing Yet for Biden

Susan Jones | March 4, 2022 | 7:44am EST
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(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Non-farm payrolls added a whopping 678,000 jobs in February, well above the consensus estimate of 400,000; and the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 3.8 percent, the lowest of Biden's presidency, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported Friday.

The unemployment rate dropped as low as 3.5 percent during the Trump administration, before COVID hit.

The number of Americans counted as employed increased by 598,000 in February, to 157,722,000, the highest it's been since the record 158,866,000 people counted as employed in February 2020.

The labor force participation rate also moved in the right direction, reaching 62.3 percent.

In February, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 263,324,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution, such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care facility.

Of that civilian non-institutional population, 163,991,000 were participating in the labor force, meaning they were either employed or unemployed -- they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month. This resulted in a labor force participation rate of 62.3 percent in February -- following the impressive 0.3-point month-to-month increase in January.

The participation rates was 61.4 percent when Biden took office. Today's number is the highest since he became president.

(The labor force participation rate reached a seven-year high of 63.4 percent in January 2020, the final year of Trump's presidency and just before the onset of COVID.)

The number of people not in the labor force -- no job and not looking -- continued its downward trend in February, dropping to 99,333,000 from 99,516,000. In April 2020, as COVID cases soared, a record 103,538,000 people were not participating in the labor force.

BLS said job growth was widespread over the month, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, health care, and construction. BLS also noted that nonfarm payroll employment is still down by 2.1 million, or 1.4 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

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.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls, at $31.58 in February, were little changed over the month (+1 cent), after large increases in recent months. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.1 percent.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised up by 78,000, from +510,000 to +588,000, and the change for January was revised up by 14,000, from +467,000 to +481,000. With these revisions, employment in December and January combined is 92,000 higher than previously reported.

Other findings from the BLS Household Survey:

-- 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 not in the labor force in February, 1.2 million persons say they 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.)

The business and economic reporting of is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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