The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in February, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report published on Friday, a sign of renewed strength in the job market. At the same time, the U.S. Labor Department survey of households found that the unemployment rate increased slightly last month, to 6.7 percent.
"Normally that wouldn't be so good, our usual demarcation good-bad line is 200,000 [jobs]," says FTN Financial chief economist Chris Low. "But the weather, the week of the payroll survey, was just abysmal. We had snow in 49 of 50 states. ... The assumption is, without that bad weather, it would have been a terrific month."
Some numbers in the report, like the long-term unemployment rate, continue to concern economists. The February data reveal that 203,000 more people were considered long-term unemployed. That means that total number is now 3.8 million Americans.
"Again, it's steady as she goes. We'd like to see numbers that are a lot stronger to really bring back some of the unemployed people," says BNP Paribas chief U.S. economist Julia Coronado. "Even though it's stronger than expected, it's not very strong in an absolute sense. But it's not very weak either. So we're still in that muddling along zone."