U.S. Job Gains Likely to Allay Anxiety After a Dismal 2 Months

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from The New York Times,

The American economy stirred to life last month, creating more jobs than in the previous two winter months and raising hopes that momentum in the labor market would gradually pick up as the cold weather in many parts of the country eases with the arrival of spring.

The report from the Labor Department for February, which came on Friday after job figures for December and January that were much weaker than the underlying trend, eased fear that the economy was downshifting to a slower pace. The data led some experts to conclude that weather, not a fundamental slowdown, was a major factor behind the recent shortfalls.

With employers hiring 175,000 workers, the payroll gain in February was hardly cause for celebration — it was still well short of the pace needed to return the economy to full employment in the next few years. But it was twice the number added in December, when the cold and snow arrived.

The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent, a reversal of the sharp downward trend recorded since last summer. Some experts argued that was not cause for alarm, but rather a sign that more people were moving back into the labor force and searching for jobs as openings increased.

The Labor Department announcement had been awaited eagerly and was viewed as a wild card, with economists struggling to estimate the impact of wintry weather in many parts of the country as well as seasonal adjustments by government statisticians.

Before Friday’s report, the consensus among economists on Wall Street called for employers to have added 149,000 positions in February, with the jobless rate remaining flat at 6.6 percent.

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