Hiring surge added 313K jobs in February, most in 1½ years

Wall Street wants to know if hourly pay moderated or whether wage pressures continue to build. "Wage growth", says Bankrate.com senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick, "is the most important aspect of tomorrow's jobs report". Meanwhile, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent for the fifth straight month, continuing to be its lowest level since December 2000. Retail jobs increased by 50,000 over the month and manufacturers added 31,000 jobs. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 68 cents (+2.6%).

U.S. chief economist Beth Ann Bovino said a stronger jobs report with another healthy wage gains improves the odds of the bank having a fourth rate hike before the end of the year.

Average hourly earnings in February were up 4 cents (to $26.75) following a 7-cent gain the month before. This year is far outpacing 2017, when the monthly average was 171,000.

"It is only a matter of time before we see more sustained increases in wages", she wrote. The news led to a sell-off on stock markets as investors bet that the Federal Reserve would move more quickly to raise rates.

Increasing participation by men of prime working age - between 25 and 54 years - has helped drive the labour force participation rate higher in recent months, reflecting a resurgence in sectors such as manufacturing.

February's gains included an increase of 61,000 construction jobs - the biggest rise since 2007.

Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government showed little change over the month. Unemployment among Caucasians dropped to 3.5 percent.

For the 12 months that ended February 28, wages increased 2.6 percent.

Figures released Wednesday by the state Employment Development Department show that California employers added 35,500 non-farm payroll jobs in January. Over the past 14 months, the US economy has added 195,714 each month on average-a strong figure.

Most economists expect growth to pick up in the coming months and to accelerate inflation slightly by year's end. On one side are those who worry about overheating: Given the 4.1 percent jobless rate (that number was unchanged in February), if the economy is allowed to boom, it will create inflation rather than improvement in real living standards.

  • Zachary Reyes