By Isaac Cohen*
After two months of weak job creation, at a monthly average of 94,000 in December and January, the US economy in February created 175,000 new nonfarm jobs. Bad weather was blamed for the weak job creation of December and January, but it did not stop February’s relatively more vigorous job creation.
By sectors, the biggest gains were in professional and business services, with 79,000 new jobs. Even construction, despite the bad weather, gained 15,000 new jobs in February. Still, the unemployment rate increased slightly, from 6.6 percent in January to 6.7 in February. However, by contrast with previous months, the increase in the unemployment ratelast month was caused by 264,000 additional persons looking for jobs.
The moderate rate of economic growth of 2.4 percent in the last quarter of 2013, down from the more vigorous 4.1 percent of the third quarter, explains the still insufficient rate of job creation. Among other consequences, the number of those who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks increased by 203,000, to 3.8 million persons.
Even so, Republican members of Congress did not approve a White House proposal to extend unemployment benefits for those who have been looking for work for more than 27 weeks. Therefore, on December 31, 2013, unemployment insurance expired for 1.3 million persons.
*International analyst and consultant. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio. Former Director, UNECLAC Washington Office