U.S. February Unemployment Rate Changes Little at 3.5%

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U.S. February Unemployment Rate Changes Little at 3.5%

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, and the unemployment rate (3.5 percent) changed little. Employment rose in health care and social assistance, food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical services, and financial activities.

THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — FEBRUARY 2020

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, and the unemployment
rate was little changed at 3.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance,
food services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and
technical services, and financial activities.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household
survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic
characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and
earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical
methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 3.5 percent, and the number of unemployed persons,
at 5.8 million, changed little in February. The unemployment rate has been either
3.5 percent or 3.6 percent for the past 6 months. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Asians declined to 2.5
percent in February. The rates for adult men (3.3 percent), adult women (3.1 percent),
teenagers (11.0 percent), Whites (3.1 percent), Blacks (5.8 percent), and Hispanics
(4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and
A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.1
million, changed little in February and accounted for 19.2 percent of the unemployed.
(See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate remained at 63.4 percent in February. The
employment-population ratio, at 61.1 percent, changed little over the month but was
up by 0.4 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 4.3 million,
changed little in February. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time
employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they
were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In February, 1.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force,
little changed from the previous month. These individuals were not in the labor
force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the
prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks prior to the survey.
Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no
jobs were available for them, numbered 405,000 in February, little different
from the previous month. (See Summary table A.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 273,000 in February, after an increase of
the same magnitude in January. In 2019, job growth averaged 178,000 per month. In
February, notable job gains occurred in health care and social assistance, food
services and drinking places, government, construction, professional and technical
services, and financial activities. (See table B-1.)

Employment in health care and social assistance increased by 57,000 in February.
Health care added 32,000 jobs, with gains in offices of physicians (+10,000), home
health care services (+10,000), and hospitals (+8,000). Employment in social assistance
increased by 25,000, with a majority of the gain in individual and family services
(+18,000). Over the past 12 months, employment increased by 368,000 in health care and
by 191,000 in social assistance.

Food services and drinking places added 53,000 jobs in February. Employment in the
industry has increased by 252,000 over the past 7 months, following a lull in job growth
earlier in 2019.

In February, government employment increased by 45,000, led by a gain in state government
education (+16,000). Federal employment increased by 8,000, reflecting the hiring of
7,000 temporary workers for the 2020 Census.

Construction added 42,000 jobs in February, following a similar gain in January (+49,000).
In 2019, job gains averaged 13,000 per month. In February, employment gains occurred
in specialty trade contractors (+26,000) and residential building (+10,000).

In February, employment in professional and technical services increased by 32,000. Job
growth occurred in architectural and engineering services (+10,000) and in scientific
research and development services (+5,000). Employment continued to trend up in computer
systems design and related services (+8,000). Over the past 12 months, professional and
technical services has added 285,000 jobs.

Employment in financial activities increased by 26,000 in February, with gains in real
estate (+8,000) and in credit intermediation and related activities (+6,000). Over the
past 12 months, financial activities has added 160,000 jobs.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade,
retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and information, changed little over the
month.

In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
increased by 9 cents to $28.52. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
increased by 3.0 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and
nonsupervisory employees increased by 8 cents to $23.96 in February. (See tables B-3
and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to
34.4 hours in February. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.2 hour to 40.7
hours, and overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production
and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 33.7
hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised up by 37,000 from
+147,000 to +184,000, and the change for January was revised up by 48,000 from +225,000
to +273,000. With these revisions, employment gains in December and January combined were
85,000 higher than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports
received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and
from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged
243,000 per month over the last 3 months.