Economy adds 227K jobs, jobless rate unchanged

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The report was filled with other promising details.

The so-called “underemployment” rate — which includes those who’ve given up looking for work and those with part-time jobs who want full-time work — fell to 14.9 percent. That’s the lowest in three years.

The number of people employed in February — 142.1 million — was the highest since January 2009. Manufacturing payrolls were at their highest point since April 2009.

And over the past three months, the number of employed people has risen by 1.45 million, the biggest three-month gain since March 2000.

Friday’s report comes as a host of data points to an improving economy and job market. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits have fallen about 14 percent in six months. Though they ticked up last week, average applications remain near a four-year low.

And service companies, which employ most Americans, are expanding at a faster pace, according to a private survey released this week. A gauge of employment shows that service firms are still hiring, particularly in the mining, educational services, and transportation and warehousing industries.

The service sector includes everything from restaurants and hotels to health care firms and financial service companies.

Some companies must hire because they can’t squeeze more output from their current staffs. Last year, worker productivity rose at its slowest pace in nearly 25 years. That means companies will likely have to add staff to meet growing demand.

Other figures point to the same conclusion. The average work week was unchanged at 34.5 hours. That’s close to the pre-recession total and suggests that companies will have to hire more workers as business improves, rather than adding more hours.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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