Jobless Rate Steady at 4.1% in February

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

            WASHINGTON (PAI)—The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent in February, the fifth straight month it hasn’t budged. Businesses claimed to create a net of 287,000 new jobs last month, while governments added another 26,000, a separate Bureau of Labor Statistics survey said. All the added government jobs were in local schools.

            But while the number of jobs grew, so did the number of jobless, by 22,000, to 6.71 million, BLS added. And what seemed to be a start of workers’ pay rising as the job market tightened, wasn’t, added Economic Policy Institute analyst Elise Gould.

            “Nominal hourly wage growth remains relatively disappointing at 2.6 percent year-over-year, so we clearly have a ways to go before reaching the 3.5 percent wage growth — at a minimum — that would be consistent with” both government inflation targets and productivity.

            In short, workers are still producing more than employers are willing to pay them for.


            “It’s important to remember that wage growth doesn’t need to simply hit 3.5 percent in a given month to declare the job is done. It needs to exceed 3.5 percent for a substantial amount of time for workers to begin to claw back losses in the labor share of income they’ve felt during and since the Great Recession,” Gould said.

            The crash only made a bad situation, the yawning wage chasm between the races and between the rich and the rest of us, worse, Gould noted.

            “Black-white wage gaps have widened over the last 17 years and the bottom 50 percent of college-degreed workers have lower wages today than in 2000,” she warned. And BLS numbers also show, still, that one of every 12 workers (8.2 percent) are jobless, working part-time when they really want full-time jobs or so discouraged they’ve stopped seeking work.

            Construction firms claimed to add 61,000 jobs, rising to 7.17 million in February. Sixty percent of those added jobs were at specialty trade contractors. But 732,000 construction workers (7.8 percent) were jobless, a figure union leaders say understates unemployment in their industry.

            Factories claimed to add 31,000 jobs, to 12.61 million. The biggest gains were reported in cars (+6,200 jobs), fabricated metal products (+5,900) and machinery (+5,600). There were 555,000 jobless construction workers (3.6 percent).

            By comparison, the lowest-paying service sectors added many more jobs in February. They were led by retail trade (+50,000 jobs), where clothing stores and retail clubs led the way.

            Just behind were temps (+26,500) and health care (+18,500). Health care is 77 percent female and retail trade is 50-50.            


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