Despite predictions that this year's bad wintry weather would adversely impact unemployment rates, the February report wasn't as pessimistic as some forecasts. According to figures released by the Labor Department, Black unemployment fell from 12.1 percent in January to 12 percent. Meanwhile, the overall unemployment rate tipped up slightly from a five-year low of 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent, which may be a signal that more people are looking for work.
In addition, U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs, which is much higher than the 139,000 that ADP estimated in its monthly report on job trends.
"Over the past three months, payrolls growth has averaged 130,000, which is pretty respectable given the widespread weather disruptions," tweeted University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers, the Associated Press reports
The Labor Department on Thursday reported that the number of people filing first-time unemployment insurance claims fell last week by 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, the lowest in three months, which suggests "there is some strength in a labor market that has been hobbled by severe weather," according to Reuters.
"February 2014 was the 48th straight month of private-sector job growth, with businesses adding 8.7 million jobs over that time. Despite a major snowstorm that hit the East Coast during the reference week for the labor market surveys, the rate of job growth picked up from the December and January pace," said Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Furman acknowledged that the unemployment rate "remains elevated" and "wages have been slow to rise," but added that the budget released by the White House this week "can make progress on these issues" by investing in education, job training, and innovation, by expanding tax credits for working Americans, and by extending the emergency unemployment benefits."
In his response to the unemployment report, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took aim at the president's health care law, blaming it for reduced hours and wages.
"Hard working Americans shouldn't have to accept this new normal of reduced hours and wages caused by Obamacare. Cutting hours and wages by as much as 25 percent is just one of the many reasons Obamacare is hurting those looking for work," Cantor said. "It's time to admit this law has failed and stop the harm it is causing innocent people just trying to get by and earn a decent paycheck."
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(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)