The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics February report showed that nonfarm payrolls grew at an optimistic pace of 678,000, while the unemployment slightly fell to 3.8%.
Estimates prior to this report came in at 440,000 for payrolls and 3.9% for unemployment.
The report indicates that inflation could be backing off. Wages grew by just 0.03% cents an hour for the month compared to projections of 0.5%.
“The labor market recovery remains very robust across the board as more Americans are returning to work,” said Eric Merlis, managing director of global markets at Citizens Financial Group. “Geopolitical issues and inflation pose ongoing threats to the U.S. economic recovery, but pandemic restrictions are being lifted and we continue to see strong job growth.”
The report shows year-over-year growth as 5.13%, below the Dow Jones estimate of 5.8%.
This brings the US employment rate closer to levels seen prior to the pandemic, but still lacks 1.14 million workers. However, there continues to be a labor shortage with companies struggling to fill in the 10.9 million openings seen at the end of 2021.
The leisure and hospitality sectors, which were among the hardest hit during the pandemic, led the pack in employment, adding 179,000 positions last month. In fact, the industry saw its unemployment to fall to 6.6%, a 1.6 percentage decrease from January.
Despite these gains, the Russia-Ukraine war has captured the focus of investors, with Dow predicting a loss of 300 points at the open.
“We’re getting back to pre-pandemic levels in terms of labor force participation. Job growth is still quite healthy and strong,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at Charles Schwab. “As more people come back to work and participation picks up, the level of wage gains should start to subside a little bit. In terms of the Fed worrying about inflation driven by people making more money, I guess that’s good news.”