The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the economy added 236,000 jobs last month, beating analyst expectations. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, its lowest point in four years.
While construction, healthcare, tourism and retail were all pockets of strength, government hiring lagged behind.
“But not as a result of the sequester,” says Julia Coronado, chief economist with investment bank BNP Paribas. “It was all on the state and local side.”
In the coming months, analysts will continue to watch for the effects of the mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts, which kicked in March 1.
Coronado says that while February’s report showed a healthy gain in jobs, it also revealed a drop in labor force participation.
“In particular, young people gave up the search [for jobs] — that’s not the way we want to make progress.”
To hear more about the U.S. job market and the Labor Department’s latest report, click on the audio player above.