The February unemployment report released Friday showed that the nation’s economy is experiencing slow but steady momentum and continuing to add jobs. The African-American unemployment rate was 14.1 percent, up from 13.6 percent in January. The overall unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent.
U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February, which is a substantial increase from January’s revised figure of 173,000. In addition, virtually every sector of the economy added jobs, another sign that the labor market is growing stronger. Meanwhile, the Labor Department on Thursday reported 362,000 new unemployment claims for the week ending March 3, an increase of 8,000 from the week before but continuing a four-year low.
Before the jobs report was released, Georgia Tech economist Thomas Boston predicted continuing improvement in the overall employment rate.
“The general consensus is that the unemployment rate won’t change at all,” he told BET.com. Sectors like construction and manufacturing “are the sectors that were holding the economy back, so as they mend more, the economy will also move forward.”
But Boston was less optimistic about the Black unemployment rate. The significant dip in January from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent applauded by all, Boston said, was a statistical aberration.
“When it comes to Black unemployment, it’s difficult to read too much into the numbers from one month to another. You really have to look at a trend over three months because it takes more time for [the Labor Department] to seasonally adjust the numbers because [African-Americans comprise] a smaller percentage of the labor force,” he said, adding that the February rate would be closer to 14 percent.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus believes that the economy is not improving and that the jobs report underscores what he says is the Obama administration's failure to develop policies that can turn it around.
"Millions of families continue to feel the pain of the sluggish Obama economy and the rising cost of gas, groceries and health care," Priebus said. "They are still waiting on President Obama to keep his promise of an economic recovery."
The White House took a decidedly different stand, arguing that the report provided evidence that the economy is healing thanks to the administration’s initiatives.
“It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007, including measures to help the sectors that were most severely harmed by the bubble economy that misdirected investment and created too few durable jobs,” said Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
In addition, he said, “For the first time since the 1990s, the manufacturing sector is adding jobs. To support a revival in manufacturing jobs and output, the president has proposed tax incentives for manufacturers, enhanced training for the workforce and measures to create manufacturing hubs.”
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