California jobless rate falls to 4.4 percent in January

Reuters  Mike Blake

Employment gains were led by the construction sector, which added 61,000 jobs, the most since March 2007.

On Twitter, the president expressed elation.

The pace of worker pay gains will again top the list of things Wall Street will be watching when the February jobs report is released early Friday. More specifically, jobs in oil and gas extraction (which fall under the mining categorization) increased by 1,100.

Unemployment remained steady at 310,000.

U.S. employers added 313,000 jobs in February, the biggest monthly increase since July 2016, according to the latest data from businesses and government agencies collected by the Labor Department. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1%, the lowest since December 2000, yet a broader measure that includes people who work part time but want full-time jobs was higher, at 8.2%.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in February increased by 68 cents - 2.6 percent - year over year.

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A "Goldilocks" report for markets? Retailers added 50,000, the most in two years.

The public sector gained 26,000, with hiring added in education and at the state government level.

In the meantime, economists are calculating how the Trump administration's decision Friday to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum might affect the job market. As a result, retail employment rose after the seasonal adjustment, the department said. The February bounty suggests there are still enough underemployed folks out there to ensure that companies, industries, and indeed the entire economy can continue expanding.

Those figures provided fodder for analysts who say wage growth could be moderated by a large number of potential workers sitting on the sidelines.

Nine years into an economic expansion, jobs reports don't get much better than this. Chris Low of FTN Financial said in a client note. That is quite a turnaround from the sluggish job growth experienced in 2016, and it is a sign that that firms have continued to accelerate their hiring as the economic outlook has strengthened and demand and production have improved considerably. But as stock investors correctly concluded last month, if wages start rising too fast given weak gains in worker productivity, it would probably prompt Mr. Powell and his colleagues to tap the brakes on the economy a little harder (that is, raise interest rates more than they would otherwise).

Dutta added that, "The pick-up in the labor force implies little need at this juncture for the Fed to speed up the pace of its rate tightening campaign".

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