Payroll employment fell by 63,000, and the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 4.8 percent in February, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment fell in manufacturing, construction, and retail trade. Job growth continued in health care and in food services.
Employment in construction decreased by 39,000 in February, and has fallen by 331,000 since its most recent peak in September 2006. During this period, residential specialty trades lost 209,000 jobs, while residential building lost 137,000 jobs.
In February, employment in retail trade declined by 34,000. Job losses occurred in department stores (-11,000), building material and garden supply stores (-7,000), and automobile dealers (-6,000).
Meanwhile, the number of individuals working part time who would prefer to be working full time has been growing. In February, there were 4.9 million such workers, an increase of about 637,000 from a year earlier.
In February, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers on private payrolls rose by 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $17.80, seasonally adjusted. This followed gains of 6 cents in December and 5 cents in January. Average weekly earnings rose by 0.3 percent in February to $599.86. Over the past 12 months, both average hourly earnings and weekly earnings rose by 3.7 percent.