February Job Growth Was a Lot Stronger Than Expected

March 10, 2017, 1:42 PM UTC

The job market is still going strong, but don’t take our word for it.

The Department of Labor’s latest jobs report, released Friday, shows that firms are not only hiring at a strong pace—wages are rising as well.

Employers added 235,000 jobs in February, higher than the 200,000 jobs economists were expecting. The unemployment rate, was 4.7%, little changed from a month earlier.

Meanwhile, wages rose 2.8% over last year.

One of the stunning pockets of strength came from goods-producing jobs, which increased by 95,000 in February–the most since March 2000. Part of that hiring boom could be related to milder than usual winter weather. Construction firms added 58,000 jobs and manufacturers added 28,000 jobs in February.

(TIME: Unemployment Drops to 4.7% as Employers Add 235,000 Jobs in February)

The average American worker labored for 34.4 hours a week and earned $26.09 per hour in February.

President Donald Trump has called for tax cuts and infrastructure spending to boost the economy, but it’s far too soon to attribute strength in the job market to any of his policies – most of which have yet to be enacted.

That said, it is crystal clear that at least some investors, consumers and businesses have become more optimistic about the economy since election day.

The S&P 500 has gained about 10% since November 8, and consumer confidence metrics have soared. Only 8 percent of Americans now name the economy as the top problem facing the nation—the lowest number since 2007, according to a survey conducted by Gallup.

Interestingly, however, the confidence gap between Republicans and Democrats has never been wider.

On the campaign trail last year, President Trump had called the Department of Labor’s official unemployment rate “phony.” Even alternate measures, however, are showing improvement. The so-called U-6 rate, which also includes people who are working part-time but would like to work full-time, fell in February to 9.2%. A year ago, it was 9.8%.

Meanwhile, a strong jobs report is likely to give the Federal Reserve even more fuel to raise interest rates at its meeting next week. In a speech last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said a rate hike “would likely be appropriate” as long as there aren’t any major surprises from indicators on jobs and inflation.

The Fed’s next policymaking meeting is scheduled to end on March 15.

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