Helping to drive the February data, according to Labor officials, was the fact that auto workers returned from temporary layoffs and the construction trades were once again busy after a lull due to a cold.
Even though the nation’s February jobless rate jumped to 5.4% from 5.2% in January, the officials said the jump at least partly reflected decisions by many workers to once again resume their job search.
In the manufacturing sector, companies added 20,000 workers to their payrolls in February, the biggest gain since August. BLS Director Kathleen Utgoff, said much of the gain reflected auto workers returning from temporary layoffs.
Also, construction employment rose by 30,000 in February, following no change in January when unusually severe weather in some areas limited construction work. Employment growth among residential specialty trade contractors (16,000) and residential builders (5,000) accounted for the bulk of February’s gain.
In February, manufacturing added 20,000 jobs, with motor vehicles and parts accounting for about half of the advance. The increase in motor vehicles employment (11,000) reflected the return of auto workers from larger-than-usual temporary layoffs in January. While total manufacturing employment edged up over the year, it has shown little net change since mid-2004.
Employment in a number of service-providing industries grew over the month. Professional and business services employment expanded by 81,000 in February. Within this sector, sizable advances were seen in employment services (38,000),services to buildings and dwellings (14,000), and architectural and engineering services (7,000). Within employment services, temporary help services added 30,000 jobs in February and 207,000 jobs over the year.
Meanwhile, retail trade employment increased by 30,000 in February, with small gains distributed throughout this industry. Over the year, retail trade has added 135,000 jobs. Wholesale trade employment was essentially flat in February; employment in the industry has been trending upward, however, and has grown by 94,000 since its most recent low in August 2003.
Within the financial activities sector, employment growth continued in credit intermediation and related activities. The industry added 11,000 jobs in February, with commercial banks accounting for about 5,000 of the gain.
February saw health care employment increase by 23,000. Since February 2004, this industry has gained 262,000 jobs. Over the month, employment increased in ambulatory health care services (12,000) and in hospitals (6,000).
In the leisure and hospitality sector, food services and drinking places added 27,000 jobs in February. Over the year, leisure and hospitality employment increased by 268,000, with strong gains in both food services and accommodations.