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Unemployment report less gloomy than anticipated

Latest update : 2010-03-05

The US Labor Department released its February unemployment report on Friday, showing the rate held steady at 9.7% with fewer job losses than expected. The report noted that figures may have been skewed by temporary hiring to beat the winter storms.

  
AFP - The United States lost 36,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent, the government said in a better-than-expected report Friday that may be skewed by winter storms.
  
The Labor Department said that payroll employment was "little changed" from January, noting job losses in construction and information that were partly offset by increases in temporary hiring.
  
"Severe winter weather in parts of the country may have affected payroll employment and hours; however, it is not possible to quantify precisely the net impact of the winter storms on these measures," the department said.
  
The report was better than expected by most economists who had forecast 67,000 nonfarm job losses and a 9.8 percent unemployment rate.
  
The government revised higher the job losses in January to 26,000 from 20,000 and maintained the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent.
  
The total number of unemployed was essentially unchanged at 14.9 million.
  
The highly anticipated Labor Department report is seen as a key indicator of economic momentum.
  
The February report was much stronger than analysts expected after major snowstorms in the northeast, but still underscored the persistent woes in the labor market, even after the economy emerged from a crippling recession in mid-2009.
  
The Federal Reserve, the White House and most economists have warned that high unemployment would continue as the world's largest economy slowly recovers from the worst recession in decades.
  
"Today’s employment report further highlights that there is a jobless recovery underway in America," said Jason Schenker of Prestige Economics.
  
"While leading economic indicators...continue to point towards growth and the Fed has acknowledged the return of a 'nascent recovery,' the US jobs market remains fundamentally weak," he said.
  
Economists say the ailing labor market poses a major challenge to a sustainable recovery, given that most of the growth in the past two quarters was due to government spending and the Fed's near-zero interest rates.
  
The US economy expanded at a strong 5.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter, following a 2.2 percent rise in the third quarter that snapped a full 12 months of contraction.
  
 

Date created : 2010-03-05

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