WASHINGTON – Employers added more workers than projected in February, indicating the U.S. economy is starting to bounce back from a weather-induced setback. The jobless rate unexpectedly climbed from a five-year low.
The 175,000 gain in employment followed a revised 129,000 increase the prior month that was bigger than initially estimated, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 149,000 advance in February. Unemployment rose to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent as more people entered the labor force and couldn’t find work.
The report indicates employers remain upbeat about the economy’s prospects after winter storms and freezing temperatures across the eastern U.S. slowed consumer spending, housing and manufacturing. Lowe’s Cos. is among those boosting headcount, setting the stage for further gains as Americans return to stores.
“It’s a pretty good report, given the weather,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, who correctly predicted the gain in payrolls. “You had a pretty good rise in average hourly earnings, you had some good gains in jobs in a couple of different sectors.”
Stock-index futures extended gains after the report, with the contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring this month rising 0.5 percent to 1,885.2 at 8:55 a.m. in New York.
The figures showed hiring at professional and business services increased by the most in a year, while payrolls also rebounded in education and health services. State and local government agencies, factories and construction firms also added to headcounts last month.
Revisions to prior reports added a total of 25,000 jobs to overall payrolls in the previous two months.
Bloomberg survey estimates of 92 economists for February payrolls ranged from gains of 100,000 to 220,000. Last year, the U.S. added 194,000 jobs each month, on average.