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Economy adds 235,000 jobs in February

The U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February and the nation’s unemployment rate edged down to 4.7 percent, the Labor Department reported today.

The government said job gains occurred in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care and mining.

Reuters said the robust pace of hiring topped expectations. The government said average hourly earnings climbed 6 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $26.09, in February after a 5-cent increase in January. Year over year, earnings have risen by 71 cents, or 2.8 percent.

Taken together, the job and wage growth could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its March 14-15 meeting.

"By any measure this report is consistent with an exceedingly healthy labor backdrop and, I think more critically, it's a number that will embolden the Fed to raise rates in March," Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York, told Reuters.

Economists that Reuters polled had predicted an increase of 190,000 jobs in February. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey was for a gain of 200,000.

The government revised the job totals for the two previous months to show a net increase of 9,000 from the initial reports. The December total was revised downward from 157,000 to 155,000, but the January total was revised upward from 227,000 to 238,000.

Job gains have averaged 209,000 a month during the past three months.

The government said the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged, at 1.8 million, in February and accounted for 23.8 percent of the unemployed. During the past year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 358,000.

The government said the number of people employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed, at 5.7 million, in February. Those people, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut or they were unable to find full-time jobs. In February, 1.7 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, little different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Those people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job at some time during the previous 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work during the four weeks that preceded the survey.

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