The nation’s economy added 236,000 new jobs in February and the jobless rate was 7.7% from January's 7.9%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 236,000 jobs created reflect 35 straight months of positive job growth. But the number of long-term unemployed (those who are jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged at 4.8 million. These people account for 40.2% of the unemployed.
The biggest job gains were in professional and business services (73,000), construction (48,000), health care (32,000) and retail (24,000). Manufacturing saw a 14,000 increase in jobs. Public-sector workers saw a slight decrease from January losing 10,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate for whites (6.8%) declined in February while the rates for adult men (7.1%), adult women (7.0%), teenagers (25.1%), African Americans (13.8%) and Hispanics (9.6%) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.1% (not seasonally adjusted), with little changing from last year.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement:
February’s encouraging job growth is welcome news, but before we get too excited, let’s not ignores the real pain that working families still experience outside the bubble of D.C. Long-term unemployment remains unchanged, 14.3 percent of working people in the United States are unemployed or underemployed and public sector employment continues to decline even before the sequester’s devastating impacts have been felt. And let’s not ignore the politician-made obstacles in front of us: The 750,000 jobs that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be lost in 2013 due to the sequester is more than three times the number of net new jobs in February (236,000).
To stop further job loss in the public and private sectors, it is important that Congress repeal the sequester. These across-the-board cuts will cost more than 1 million jobs and could derail the economic recovery. The AFL-CIO Executive Council wrote in a recent statement:
There is no economic need to replace 'sequestration' or meet any arbitrary deficit reduction target. Further fiscal austerity before the United States returns to full employment only would weaken the economy and cost jobs. If the “sequester” is to be replaced, it should be replaced in a way that minimizes drag on the economy—which is by raising additional revenues from the wealthiest households and corporations. Since January 2011, 70 percent of deficit reduction has been through discretionary spending cuts, which is an important reason why the recovery has been so sluggish. Under no circumstances should the “sequester” be replaced by furloughs for federal employees, who already have sacrificed $103 billion to reduce the deficit.
There also must be a high-wage strategy to foster economic growth. The council wrote:
To fix what is wrong with the U.S. economy, we must urgently put in place three pillars of a high-wage strategy for shared prosperity: (1) restoring workers’ ability to bargain collectively; (2) restoring the historical value of the minimum wage; and (3) raising labor standards for all workers through comprehensive immigration reform. These goals cannot be achieved unless workers organize, particularly in growth sectors of the economy.