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By: Beth Mace  |  March 08, 2021

U.S. Jobs Increase by A Strong 379,000 in February

Economic Trends  |  Seniors Housing

The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 379,000 in February and that the unemployment rate edged lower to 6.2% from 6.3% in January. The jobless rate remains 2.7 percentage points above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5% seen in February 2020, but well below the 14.7% peak seen in April. Despite the February increase, job levels are 9.5 million below the pre-pandemic levels of February 2020 (6.2%), with 3.5 million of that gap in the leisure and hospitality sectors. The consensus estimates for February had been for a gain of 200,000.

Private service-producing jobs increased by 513,000, led by a rise of 355,000 jobs in leisure and hospitality payrolls as pandemic-related restrictions began to be relaxed and restaurant re-openings occurred. Health care added 20,000 jobs in January; this followed a loss of 85,000 in January. Nursing care facilities lost 12,000 jobs in February.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed from January at 4.1 million but is 3.0 million higher than year-earlier levels, suggesting that this continues to be a very challenging time for many Americans. Long-term unemployed persons account for 41.5% of the total number of unemployed persons.

The underemployment rate or the U-6 jobless rate was unchanged at 11.1% in February. This figure includes those who have quit looking for a job because they are discouraged about their prospects and people working part-time but desiring a full work week.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by $0.07 in February to $30.01, a gain of 5.3% from a year earlier. These increases largely reflect the disproportionate number of lower paid workers in leisure and hospitality who went off payrolls, which put upward pressure on the average hourly earnings estimates.

The labor force participation rate, which is a measure of the share of working age people who are employed or looking for work was steady at 61.4% in February.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised down by 79,000 from a loss of 227,000 to a loss of 306,000 and the change for January was revised up by 117,000 from 49,000 to 166,000. Combined, 38,000 jobs were added to the original estimates. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.

The February data is promising and reflects a gradual reopening of parts of the economy and some of the effects of the $600 stimulus checks. The ongoing drop in COVID cases, the widespread distribution of vaccines, and a shift in consumer confidence is needed to allow for a more complete re-opening of the economy and a fuller recovery in jobs. If the $1.9 trillion stimulus package becomes law, further economic activity and additional job growth can be expected in the coming months.

About Beth Mace

Beth Burnham Mace is the Chief Economist and Director of Outreach at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Prior to joining the staff at NIC, she served as a member of the NIC Board of Directors for 7 years and chaired NIC’s Research Committee. Ms. Mace was also a Director at AEW Capital Management and worked in the AEW Research Group for 17 years. While at AEW, Ms. Mace provided primary research support to the organization’s core and value-added investment strategies and provided research-related underwriting in acquisition activity and asset and portfolio management decisions. Prior to joining AEW in 1997, Ms. Mace spent ten years at Standard & Poor’s DRI/McGraw-Hill as the Director of the Regional Information Service with responsibility for developing forecasts of economic, demographic, and industry indicators for 314 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Prior to working at DRI, she spent three years as a Regional Economist at the Crocker Bank in San Francisco. Ms. Mace has also worked at the National Commission on Air Quality, the Brookings Institution and Boston Edison. Ms. Mace is a member of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), ULI’s Senior Housing Council, the Urban Land Institute and New England Women in Real Estate (NEWIRE/CREW). In 2014, she was appointed a fellow at the Homer Hoyt Institute and was awarded the title of a “Woman of Influence” in commercial real estate by Real Estate Forum Magazine and Globe Street. Ms. Mace is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (B.A.) and the University of California (M.S.). She has also earned The Certified Business Economist™ (CBE), which is the certification in business economics and data analytics developed by NABE. The CBE documents a professional’s accomplishment, experience, abilities, and demonstrates mastery of the body of knowledge critical in the field of economics and data analytics.

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