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Where the strengths lie in today's jobs report

Job seekers attend a career fair in midtown Manhattan on February 6, 2012 in New York City.

Jeremy Hobson: The big news this morning is the February jobs report from the Labor Department. U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs last month and previous estimates for December and January were revised higher. The unemployment rate remains at 8.3 percent.

Now let’s get a little deeper into the numbers with Mitchell Hartman who covers the job market for us. He’s with us live. Mitchell, what else does this morning’s report say?

Mitchell Hartman: Well Jeremy, there’s a lot to like here if you’re an economist or if you just started looking for a job. Temp employment was up by 45,000; it’s the most in two years. Employers just can’t get much more work out of their current employees so they hire temps and a lot of those people will eventually get hired on permanently.

We had manufacturing up by 31,000. Government was flat which may not sound so good but we were losing about 25,000 jobs a month all through 2010. And as tax revenues stabilized through the recession, the smackdown of government employment may be ending.

Hobson: Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman, thanks a lot.

Now for some analysis, let’s bring in our regular Friday guest, Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial. Chris, what do you make of these numbers?

Chris Low: Well look, you know -- everything in this report looks just super. And it’s important to emphasize, there are two surveys that take place every month, one of businesses, the other of households. As Mitchell said, the business numbers looked really good.

The household numbers did too. Households reported that they managed to find almost half a million more jobs this month which is super. The unemployment rate wasn’t down, it was stable at 8.3 percent but even that, it contains some good news. The reason it was stable is that despite the rise in employment, the labor force also grew and that means people are more confident about jobs too.

Hobson: Well how long is it going to take for us to get down to what would be considered, at least to what used to be considered normal unemployment rate of about 4.5 percent?

Low: Oh my, it is going to take a really really long time. There are still 6 million people who lost their jobs in the recession looking for work and at the current work, 200 or 250 or so finding jobs every month, but of course the population growing at the same time, it’s going to be 2020 before we see unemployment rates like that again.

Hobson: And Chris, the one thing that derailed our recovery before was the debt crisis in Europe. I saw this morning that Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, has come out and said, “the Greek debt crisis is over now” because of some bond swaps that went on.

Low: Yeah, absolutely, he did say that and then about 10 minutes later, the Greek prime minister was out saying, even after the swaps and even with the planned rescue, we’re still going to need another 10 billion euros or so. I think that story is going to stick around for a while.

Hobson: Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, thanks as always.

Low: Thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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