The U.S. economy had a net gain of 235,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percent to 4.7 percent.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department was stronger than most economists expected. Some experts say it takes around 100,000 jobs a month to accommodate new entrants to the work force.
Job gains were seen in construction, private education, manufacturing, health care and mining. On Twitter, White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted the report is the first for the Trump administration and “Great news for American workers.” President Donald Trump has previously called official jobless numbers “phony” and “complete fiction.”
The tight job market means companies may have to start raising wages to attract and keep the best workers. Friday’s report said wages rose about 2.8 percent over the past year, which is a stronger gain than the previous month, and stronger than inflation.
Top officials of the U.S. central bank have said they are watching the labor market closely, and the strong report may encourage them to raise interest rates. The Federal Reserve meets next week to debate interest rate policy and is scheduled to make an announcement on Wednesday. PNC Bank economist Gus Faucher says rates will go up a quarter of a percent because the labor market is where the Fed “wants it to be.” Officials slashed rates to near zero during the recession to boost growth and fight unemployment.
While the latest job data is stronger than expected, it also shows that 7.5 million Americans are still unemployed. Another 5.7 million who want to work full-time can only find part-time employment. The government figures count people as unemployed if they are available for work and tried to find a job sometime in the past four weeks. The figures do not count as officially unemployed those who stay home to rear children or who are enrolled in school or are retired.