Economy adds 379K jobs in February

The economy added a whopping 379,000 jobs in February, a major improvement from the 49,000 jobs added the previous month, and more than double the 175,000 economists predicted.

The unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent from 6.3 percent last month, and the number of unemployed people remained similar at 10 million.

The latest jobs data — covering the first full months of the Biden presidency — points to early signs of improvement for an economy still struggling to dig itself out of a deep hole amid the coronavirus pandemic. The number of unemployed people remained similar at 10 million.

The positive report could add ammunition to opponents of President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, expected to pass in the Senate over the weekend. Critics say the stimulus is too large, and risks overheating the economy.

But supporters of the bill are likely to note that even at the high rate of job creation seen in February, it could take two years to fill the void created by the pandemic recession.

"The first jobs report of the Biden Administration shows the US economy is starting to heat up. There is [now] a strong possibility of rapid economic acceleration this spring and summer," said Josh Lipsky Director of the GeoEconomics Center at The Atlantic Council.

"But the hopes for growth and job gains could quickly get blown back off course if virus variants spread and limit vaccine effectiveness," he added, saying the relief measure could ensure a smoother recovery.

Most of the job gains came from leisure and hospitality — the sector hit hardest by the pandemic — while improvements in temporary help, health care, retail, and manufacturing were smaller.

The sectors that lost jobs included state and local government, education, construction, and mining.

The Biden coronavirus relief bill includes $350 billion for state and local governments, though critics say many states have already recovered financially, and the aid should be more targeted.

The report found significant drops in temporary layoffs, which fell by 517,000, but that the number of people who have been unemployed for longer periods remained relatively stable, an indication of the more persistent problems likely to plague the jobs market in the coming months.

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