Official February unemployment at 6.7 percent

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WASHINGTON (PAI) - U.S. Unemployment rose by 0.1 percent in February, to 6.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Private firms claimed to create 162,000 net new jobs last month, with governments creating another 13,000. BLS said the harsh winter weather that hit much of the country could affect the data.

"For severe weather conditions to reduce the estimate of payroll employment, employees have to be off work without pay for the entire pay period," when BLS surveys firms for job creation data. That week includes the 12th of the month, BLS explained.

"Employees who receive pay for any part of the period, even one hour, are counted in the payroll employment figures. Persons who miss the entire week's work for weather-related events are counted as employed whether or not they are paid."

BLS said 10.46 million people were jobless in February, up 223,000 from the month before. But the unpublished part of the survey, an agency spokesman said, showed the blizzards cut the hours for 6.9 million people from full-time to part-time, and 601,000 more couldn't get to work at all. The number with weather-caused lower hours is a February record since BLS started collecting that data in 1978.

AFL-CIO Deputy Staff Director Thea Lee, a top economist, said the data shows Congress must restore benefits for the two million long-term jobless. A Senate GOP filibuster has blocked the extension. The benefits ran out on Dec. 28. In February, 37 percent of the jobless were out more than six months, so they've exhausted their state benefits.

"It may be March, but the February jobs report feels like Groundhog Day all over again," Lee said. "The economy added only 175,000 jobs-not nearly enough to dig us out of the jobs hole left by the Great Recession. Meanwhile, there are 203,000 more long-term unemployed people in the last month, reinforcing the desperate need for Congress to renew unemployment insurance."

Factories created 6,000 new jobs in February, rising to 12.065 million. Cars and parts plants had 3,400 new hires. There were 843,000 (5.5 percent) jobless factory workers.

Construction firms claimed to create 15,000 new jobs in February, rising to 5.9 million. Virtually all the new jobs were in heavy and civil engineering. But there were still 1.1 million (12.8 percent) jobless factory workers that month. Construction union leaders, citing the one-hour-at-work rule, say the official rate understates joblessness.

Service firms claimed to create 140,000 jobs, but Dean Baker of the Center For Economic And Policy Research called "the mix somewhat peculiar: Professional and business services accounted for more than half (79,000)" of the increase. Of the other new service jobs, 21,200 were in low-paying restaurants and bars.

Photo: PW

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