February 2013 Employment Situation report–surprisingly strong employment gains

the February report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Labor Department released its monthly Employment Situation report for February 2013 at 8:30 edt this morning.  Economist had been forecasting a gain of around 155,000 new jobs for the month, or about the same as the US economy achieved in January.  These figures had been drifting a bit higher over the past couple of days because both the  monthly employment survey by payroll company ADP (quirky and not that reliable as an indicator of the ESand the latest government employment claims data came in better than expected.

The actual ES figures–a gain of 236,000 new jobs–are substantially higher than the most optimistic predictions I’d heard.  The private sector added +246,000 workers; governments laid off a net -10,000.  The unemployment rate dropped by 0.2% to 7.7%.

Improvement was spread among most industries, with construction, retail, IT and healthcare notable gainers.


Participants in the Establishment Survey, from which the job gains figures come, don’t all respond at once.  So the numbers are revised in each of the two months following initial publication.  This month’s revisions dim the luster of the February report, but only by a little bit.

The December figures were first reported as +155,000 ( a gain of +168,000 in the private sector and a loss of -13,000 government jobs).  They were revised up by 41,000 last month, to +196,000 (+202,000 private, -6,000 government)  This month’s ES boosted them by another +23,000 to +219,000 (+224,000, -5,000).

The January figures were reported as +157,000 (+166,000, -9,000).  This month, they were revised down by -38,000 
to a gain of +119,000 (+140,000, -21,000).

Net net revisions to prior months are thus  -15,000, consisting of -4,000 private sector jobs and -11,000 in government.

market reaction

As I’m writing this just before the market open, S&P futures trading has closed with the index up by 7.75 points.  Wall Street should be enthused about the numbers, I think.  Given continuing uncertainty about government policy, and in particular all the dire predictions of negative effects from the sequester, this ES is a strong indicator that the domestic economy continues to heal itself despite headwinds from Washington.