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U.S. Economy Adds 242,000 Jobs, Unemployment Holds Steady In February


There has been a lot of concern that the U.S. economy might get dragged down by the rest of the world. Now those worries are on hold thanks to the latest report from the Labor Department. It shows employment rebounded last month with 242,000 new jobs. NPR's John Ydstie reports.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: A month ago, a weaker-than-expected jobs report for January sparked fears that the U.S. economy might be stalling out. And combined with turmoil in world financial markets and weak global growth that hurt U.S. exports, there were even fears the U.S. might be heading for a recession. But Kevin Logan, chief U.S. economist at HSBC, says February's better-than-expected job gains suggest the moderate growth the U.S. has been experiencing remains on track.

KEVIN LOGAN: Well, this is a positive sign that the domestic economy hasn't succumbed to these headwinds that seem to be blowing in from abroad.

YDSTIE: Logan says another positive sign in today's report was a fifth-straight monthly increase in the size of the labor force. In February, it grew by more than half a million people.

LOGAN: Labor market conditions are improving in a manner that more people feel that they can find jobs, and they are finding jobs.

YDSTIE: Some of those people are older workers returning to the labor market. Others may be young people who delayed looking for a job after the Great Recession.

LOGAN: A lot of younger people stayed in school. Well, maybe now they're finally coming out and finding the jobs that they hope to find.

YDSTIE: That flow of Americans leaving the sidelines to enter the labor market meant the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent last month. On the negative side, wages ticked down a tenth of a percent last month after a big gain in January. That may be partly because a lot of the job creation last month was in sectors like retail with relatively low-paying jobs. Many analysts suggest the solid February job growth makes it more likely the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates again in June. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.