New February Private-Sector Jobs : Zero

March 5, 2004 ( - In a surprisingly bad bit of job market news, the US Department of Labor (DoL) announced Friday that there were a mere 21,000 new non-farm jobs added in February - and those came from government employers.

The DoL said private-sector employment was unchanged over the month. Employment in construction tumbled by 24,000, while the factory sector got rid of 3,000 workers, the 43rd consecutive monthly drop. The service sector also proved surprisingly weak, creating only 46,000 new positions.

Not only was the job-creating machine moribund in February, but the government also announced that the economy had produced fewer jobs in the last two months of 2003 than previously reported. The DoL said there were actually 97,000 jobs added in December, down from 112,000 and that only 8,000 non-farm slots came into the economy in November, down from 16,000.

February’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.6% (See   Economy Tacks On 112,000 January Jobs ).

Over the last three months, employment has risen an average of just 42,000 per month, down from the 79,000 average of the prior three months and far short of the 150,000 or so jobs needed each month just to keep pace with growth in the labor force.

Wall Street economists participating in Reuters’ regular survey had been looking for a February payroll gain of 125,000 new jobs.