A line of job seekers. The U.S. added 236,000 new jobs in February.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy added a healthy 236,000 new jobs in February. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent.
It was the best performance for the job market since November 2012, beating the expectations of economists who had predicted that the economy, suffering through weak growth, wouldn't break the 200,000 new-jobs-added threshold.
A separate report from private payrolls processor ADP came out on Wednesday and showed that the economy added 198,000 new jobs in February, with an impressive 21,000 of those in construction.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a much better total than that for February: 48,000. The BLS also noted that construction has since September added 151,000 new jobs, a sign that the housing market recovery, so critical in Southern California, has staying power.
This is all happening in the context of U.S. economic growth that's running below 1 percent, making the February jobs data that much more impressive.
On the negative side, the ranks of the long term unemployed — those out of work for 27 weeks or longer — remained the same, at 4.8 million. That's slightly more than 40 percent of all workers currently without a job.
The revisions to previous months was a mixed bag. December was revised up, to 219,000 from 196,000; but January was revised down, to 119,00 from 157,000.