Job market shrugs off winter chill, leaving experts feeling rather sunny

Market adds 175K jobs, slight increase in jobless percentage could be from unemployed returning to the search

Job seekers line up to introduce themselves to potential employers at the annual Maximum Connections job fair in Portland, Oregon, U.S., on Sept. 12, 2013.
Natalie Behring/Bloomberg/Getty Images

There is some positive news on employment this month.

The Labor Department reported 175,000 jobs were created in February.  That’s more than economists had forecast and the biggest gain in employment growth since November. The big question before the release was how much the nasty winter weather affected the economy and job creation. 

“Given the broad-based evidence that weather was impacting activity, the better-than-expected gain in jobs is as good a signal as any that the economy is maintaining its resilience,” said James Marple, Senior Economist at TD Economics.

IHS Global’s Chief U.S. Economist Doug Handler is in that camp as well.

“These new employment data confirm the economy’s moderate rate of underlying economic growth and dispel the notion that any significant long-term downshift in growth occurred in December and January.

But Seth Harris, Distinguished Scholar in Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, sees it differently.

“We don’t want to cover up difficult economic times with snow and sleet,” he said. “This has been a rough winter, but the larger economic story is we are not growing fast enough as an economy in order to create the number of jobs we need to create.”

Labor Secretary Tom Perez agrees more economic expansion is needed. 

“We need to pick up the pace of growth,” he told Al Jazeera’s Real Money with Ali Velshi.  “And one of the best ways to pick up the pace of growth is to address the issue of consumption.  Economists say consumption is upwards of two-thirds of GDP, and what that means is you have to put money in people’s pockets.”

Perez said a way to do that is to increase the minimum wage and expand the Earning Income Tax Credit program.

“When you put money in people’s pockets, they buy more things and then businesses have to make more things and they sell more things and they hire more workers and everybody benefits,” he said.

Today’s report showed the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent in January.  But Mark Lieberman, Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research, believes that’s a good sign.

“It was all due to the increase in unemployment as persons out of work who were not looking resumed their search,” he said.  “(That’s) a sign of confidence in the likelihood of getting a job.”

But Harris thinks those people may have to wait a long time before they do get hired.

“Maybe in the middle of next year we’re going to see the economy pick up again,” he said.  “But it’s going to be slow and millions of unemployed Americans are going to continue looking for jobs and they really don’t have a lot of hope.”             

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