U.S. unemployment rate falls to 7.7 percent

In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 photo, Ann Oganesian, left, of Newton, Mass., pauses as she speaks with a State Department employee about job opportunities with the federal government during a job fair in Boston. U.S. employers ramped up hiring in February, adding 236,000 jobs and pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. Stronger hiring shows businesses are confident about the economy, despite higher taxes and government spending cuts. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 photo, Ann Oganesian, left, of Newton, Mass., pauses as she speaks with a State Department employee about job opportunities with the federal government during a job fair in Boston. U.S. employers ramped up hiring in February, adding 236,000 jobs and pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. Stronger hiring shows businesses are confident about the economy, despite higher taxes and government spending cuts. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Posted: March 09, 2013

The nation's payrolls added 236,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday morning.

Stocks rose as the news was released.

Except for 10,000 government jobs lost, there was hiring in nearly every broad industry sector, including manufacturing, construction, retail, business and professional services and health.

Education, typically a job generator, saw a decline, both in the private and public sectors. In the private sector, which would include universities, 14,700 jobs were lost. Though government hiring in general experienced a decline, education jobs at the state and local level took big hits.

As usual, the Labor Department revised its earlier numbers. Payroll numbers for December were revised upward by 23,000 jobs, to 219,000 from 196,000. But that gain was offset by a 38,000-job decline in January, from 157,000 to 119,000.

Some statistics were positive: The number of people working part time because they made that choice grew at a greater rate than the number of people forced to work part time because there were no full-time jobs or because business was slack. The number of unemployed people dropped to 12 million, from 12.3 million in January and 12.8 million a year ago.

But amid the positive numbers were some disturbing trends. The size of the labor force declined, even as the working-age population grew, perhaps signaling underlying uneasiness with the job market.

The median length of unemployment - meaning the time it takes the majority of people to find jobs - increased dramatically from 16 weeks to 17.8 weeks over the month, even though it is down from the 20.1-week median of February 2012.

Also lengthening is the average amount of time that people are unemployed - a statistic affected by the number of long-term unemployed. The average length of unemployment is now 36.9 weeks, up from 35.3 in February, but down from 39.9 a year ago.

"The long-term unemployed are being discriminated against," said James John, chief operating officer of King of Prussia-based Beyond.com, an operator of hundreds of job boards in various industries and regions.

"People are hiring now, but they are incredibly picky," he said.

Job postings are up 14 percent from January to February and up 75 percent over the year, John said, all indicating a desire to hire.


Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing

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