The unemployment rate held steady at 8.3 percent and the U.S. gained more than 227,000 jobs in February, both positive economic indicators, though the black unemployment rate ticked up slightly, and is again above 14 percent.
The numbers in the Labor Department report indicated that the economic momentum seen over the past few months is continuing. Some analysts had expected the jobless rate to go back up, in part because, as the economy improves, more unemployed people start looking for jobs. (A person is only classified as unemployed if they are actively searching for a job.)
The continued job growth and steady unemployment rate are good news for President Obama, who is increasingly framing his re-election on the argument that he lifted the American economy out of a recession. The unemployment rate is now almost a full point below what it was in August 2011, although it remains higher than when the president took office.
The number of unemployed persons, at 12.8 million, is about the same as it was in January.
African-American unemployment dipped from 15.8 percent in December to 13.6 in January, a dramatic drop that had puzzled experts who were surprised to see the rate go down so quickly. The Labor Department, in releasing its data, noted the 14.1 percent jobless rate for blacks is not a dramatic change from 13.6 percent.
The data suggests black unemployment is dropping, like unemployment overall, as the economy improves. Black unemployment was 15.4 percent last February.
Reaction to the jobs numbers diverged along predictable partisan lines.
“Today’s report provides some encouragement for millions of families and small businesses who continue to struggle in this economy, but unemployment remains far too high,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio.). “It is a testament to the hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people that they are creating any jobs in the midst of the onslaught of anti-business policies coming from this administration.”
But Roger Hickey, head of the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future, said, “today’s 227,000 increase in net new jobs in February announced by the Labor Department is a good sign that the economy is starting to produce private sector employment.”
Additional reporting by Ollie Montgomery
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr