- The U.S. economy gained 313,000 jobs in February, up from the revised 239,000 jobs gained in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — the most since July 2016. The construction industry accounted for the biggest gains, adding 61,000 jobs, followed by retail (50,000), professional and business services (50,000) and manufacturing (31,000). The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1% for the fifth consecutive month.
- Average hourly wages in February rose by just four cents to $26.75, down from January's gain of seven cents. The total gain in average hourly earnings for the year is 2.6%, or 68 cents. Wages for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by six cents to $22.40.
- Little else changed labor-wise last month, including the number of people not working; the number of part-time workers; and the unemployment rate for most groups, including adult men (3.7%), adult women (3.8%), teenagers (14.4%), Whites (3.7%), Asians (2.9%), and Hispanics (4.9%). The unemployment rate for African-Americans, which declined to 6.9%, was a notable exception.
Construction industry hiring appears to be undergoing a slight comeback since a well-documented, post-2000s recession lull. During the past four months, construction added 185,000 jobs, according to BLS. The February jobs report shows industry job gains for both specialty trade contracting (38,000) and building construction (16,000).
Wage growth, however, has changed only slightly in the past several months — lagging behind inflation, a Glassdoor report shows. Year-over-year median base pay growth in January 2018 sat at just 0.9%. For 2018, Glassdoor predicted either a greater increase in wages or lower inflation.
Current speculation is that the tight labor market will boost wages, especially if the economy continues to pick up steam. To compete in the talent war, a handful of employers are raising their minimum wage with their supposed tax bill refunds; for the most part, this is trend is occurring in retail, where wages have traditionally been low. So far, most employers are offering workers one-time bonuses and an array of benefits instead of base-pay increases. The exception could be tech industry employers, who might need to raise salaries by as much as 20% for the talent they want.