The U.S. added 313,000 new jobs in February.
This was the biggest gain in jobs in a year and a half. It was also clear evidence that a strong economy has plenty of room to run.
The increase in hiring easily blew past the 222,000 forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch. Job gains in January and December were also much stronger than initially reported.
Despite the big increase in #hiring, wage growth did not keep up. Hourly pay rose 4 cents to $26.75 an hour. However, the yearly increase in wages tapered off. The 12-month increase in pay slipped to 2.6% from a revised 2.8% in January.
Even so, the strong report makes it a virtual lock the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates when senior officials meet this month.
Warmer weather helped to boost hiring almost across the board in February after a harsh spell in January briefly kept thousands of people at home.
Construction companies hired 61,000 people. This marked the biggest increase in 11 years. Retailers added 50,000 jobs, as did professional-oriented businesses. And manufacturers filled 31,000 positions.
Workers also put more time in on the job. This reversed a weather-induced decline in the first month of the year.
What’s more, the economy added 54,000 more jobs in January and December than previously reported. Altogether, the economy has gained an average of 242,000 new jobs in the past three months. That’s much stronger than the 182,000 monthly average in 2017.
The modest growth in wages in February is likely to tamp down, at least for awhile, Wall Street worries about rising pay leading to higher inflation. A surge in pay in January helped ignite a route in U.S. stock markets and send interest rates higher.
Meanwhile, it appears that the President’s threatened tariffs are fast becoming a lesser issue. The tariff proposals have evolved to include a broad range of exceptions.