The U.S. economy continues to show signs that it is recovering and sustaining solid job growth. From December 2011 through February 2012, employers added the most new jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession ? 227,000 positions.
The new jobs included both high- and low-paying positions in industries such as professional services and manufacturing, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
The fact that the unemployment rate didn?t budge may seem disheartening, but a closer look shows it to be a positive trend. The jobless rate in February remained at 8.3 percent, even though more jobs were created, because more people got back into the job market. Nearly 500,000 people started looking for work in February and most found it.
Unemployment figures only count people actively looking for work. When someone gives up looking, he is no longer counted. Therefore, the reports show that some of those who had given up decided to start looking again in February, so their additional numbers countered the decline of those who had found work.
The additional jobs were added by the private sector. Government jobs, on the other hand, continue to be cut, although at a slower rate. In 2010 and 2011, many states and cities were crushed by the recession so they slashed their payrolls. They laid off about 22,000 people each month in 2011. That trend has eased. Government jobs fell by just 1,000 in January and 6,000 in February.
The federal government also revised its report on how many jobs were created in January and February, finding 61,000 more jobs than previously thought. That brings to about 245,000 the number of jobs added from December 2011 through February 2012, the best three-month period since early 2010.
Other economic indicators have also been positive. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits is about the lowest it?s been in four years and dropped about 14 percent from August 2011 through February 2012. And a survey of service companies in early March 2012 showed those in education services, warehousing, transportation and mining were all hiring.
Industry experts expect at least moderate hiring to continue because worker productivity reports show employees producing about as much as they can without getting more help. In 2011, worker productivity increased the least it had in about 25 years. What?s more, the average work week is now 34.5 hours, about the same as what it was before the recession.