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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Transmission of material in this statement is embargoed until 
8:30 a.m. (ET) March 5, 2021.

                           Statement of

                         William W. Beach
                     Bureau of Labor Statistics

                       Friday, March 5, 2021

      Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 379,000 in February, and 
the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.2 percent. The 
labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus 
(COVID-19) pandemic. Employment rose sharply in leisure and 
hospitality. Notable job gains also occurred in temporary help 
services, health care and social assistance, retail trade, and 
manufacturing. State and local government education, 
construction, and mining lost jobs over the month. 
      Substantial job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic 
first occurred in March (-1.7 million) and April (-20.7 million) 
of 2020. As economic activity resumed, employment increased by 
12.6 million from May through November but declined again in   
December (-306,000) following a surge in the number of 
coronavirus cases. Nonfarm payroll employment has increased by 
545,000 over the past 2 months but is down by 9.5 million, or 
6.2 percent, from a year ago.  
      Leisure and hospitality gained 355,000 jobs in February, as 
pandemic-related restrictions eased in some parts of the 
country. This followed job losses of 523,000 in December and 
January combined. Within the industry, job growth in food 
services and drinking places (+286,000) accounted for about 
four-fifths of the February increase. Employment also rose in 
accommodation (+36,000) and in amusements, gambling, and 
recreation (+33,000). Employment in leisure and hospitality is 
down by 3.5 million, or 20.4 percent, from a year ago.
      Within professional and business services, employment 
increased by 53,000 in temporary help services in February but 
is 175,000 lower than a year ago.
      In February, employment in health care and social 
assistance rose by 46,000. Social assistance added 26,000 jobs 
over the month, with most of the gain in individual and family 
services (+18,000). Employment in social assistance is 331,000 
lower than a year ago. Health care employment changed little in 
February (+20,000), following a large decline in the prior month 
(-85,000). In February, ambulatory health care services added 
29,000 jobs, while nursing care facilities continued to lose 
jobs (-12,000). Health care employment is 578,000 lower than a 
year earlier.

      Retail trade employment rose by 41,000 in February. Job 
gains in the industry were widespread, with the largest gains 
occurring in general merchandise stores (+14,000), health and 
personal care stores (+12,000), and food and beverage stores 
(+10,000). These gains were partially offset by an employment 
decline in clothing and accessories stores (-20,000). Following 
steep job losses in March and April of 2020 (-2.4 million jobs 
over the 2 months combined), retail trade has added 2.0 million 
jobs from May through February.
      Employment in manufacturing rose by 21,000 over the month, 
with about half of the job gain occurring in transportation 
equipment (+10,000). Manufacturing employment is down by 561,000 
over the year.
      In February, employment declined in both local government 
education (-37,000) and state government education (-32,000). 
These declines partially offset increases in January. Private 
education employment was little changed over the month (-2,000). 
Pandemic-related employment declines in 2020 distorted the 
normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns in the education 
sector, making it more challenging to discern the current 
employment trends in these industries. However, employment is 
down over the year in local government education (-674,000), 
state government education (-327,000), and private education 
      Construction employment decreased by 61,000 in February, 
with job losses in nonresidential specialty trade contractors   
(-37,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction 
(-21,000). Severe winter weather across much of the country may 
have held down employment and hours in the construction 
industry. Employment in construction is down by 308,000 over the 

      In February, mining shed 8,000 jobs, with losses occurring 
in support activities for mining (-6,000) and in oil and gas 
extraction (-2,000). Mining employment is down by 153,000 since 
an employment peak in January 2019, though nearly two-thirds of 
the decline has occurred over the past 12 months. 
      Employment in other major industries--including wholesale 
trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial 
activities, and other services--showed little change over the 
      Average weekly hours for all private-sector workers 
decreased by 0.3 hour in February to 34.6 hours. The average 
workweek for manufacturing decreased by 0.2 hour to 40.2 hours.
      Average hourly earnings of all employees on private nonfarm 
payrolls increased by 7 cents to $30.01 in February. One should 
continue to use caution when interpreting changes in average 
hourly earnings during the pandemic, as large shifts in the 
industry composition of employment can complicate monthly 
      Turning to the labor market indicators from the household 
survey, both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed 
people changed little in February, at 6.2 percent and 10.0 
million, respectively. Both measures have fallen from their 
recent peaks in April 2020 but remain well above their February 
2020 levels (at 3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively).
      Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate 
decreased in February for Asians (5.1 percent). The jobless 
rates for adult men (6.0 percent), adult women (5.9 percent), 
teenagers (13.9 percent), Whites (5.6 percent), Blacks (9.9 
percent), and Hispanics (8.5 percent) showed little or no 
      Among the unemployed, the number of people on temporary 
layoff decreased to 2.2 million in February. This measure is 
down considerably from the high of 18.0 million in April but is 
1.5 million higher than a year ago. At 3.5 million, the number 
of permanent job losers was essentially unchanged in February 
but is up by 2.2 million over the year.
      By duration of unemployment, the number of people searching 
for work for less than 5 weeks was little changed in February at 
2.2 million. The number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or 
more (often referred to as the long-term unemployed), at 4.1 
million, was little changed over the month but is up by 3.0 
million over the year. In February, the long-term unemployed 
accounted for 41.5 percent of the unemployed.
      The labor force participation rate, at 61.4 percent, was 
unchanged over the month but is down by 1.9 percentage points 
over the year. The employment-population ratio, at 57.6 percent, 
changed little in February but is down by 3.5 percentage points 
over the year.
      In February, 6.1 million people were working part time for 
economic reasons, little changed from the previous month. The 
number of people affected by this type of underemployment is 1.7 
million higher than a year ago.
      At 6.9 million, the number of people not in the labor force 
who currently want a job changed little in February. Among those 
who were not in the labor force but wanted a job, the number of 
people marginally attached to the labor force was little changed 
at 1.9 million. (People who are marginally attached to the labor 
force had not actively looked for work in the 4 weeks prior to 
the survey but had looked for a job within the last 12 months.) 
The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally 
attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was 
little changed over the month at 522,000.
      As in previous months, some workers affected by the 
pandemic who should have been classified as unemployed on 
temporary layoff in February were instead misclassified as 
employed but not at work. Since March 2020, BLS has published an 
estimate of what the unemployment rate would have been had 
misclassified workers been included among the unemployed. 
Repeating this same approach, the seasonally adjusted February 
unemployment rate would have been 0.5 percentage point higher 
than reported. Additional information about the 
misclassification, as well as information about response rates 
for both the household and establishment surveys, is available 
on the BLS website at
      Looking at supplemental pandemic-related measures from the 
household survey (these supplemental data are not seasonally 
adjusted), the share of employed people who teleworked in   
February because of the coronavirus pandemic declined to 22.7 
percent. These data refer only to employed people who teleworked 
or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks 
specifically because of the pandemic; they do not include all 
instances of telework.

      In February, the number of people who reported that they 
had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost 
business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all 
or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to 
the pandemic--decreased to 13.3 million. Among those who 
reported in February that they were unable to work because of 
pandemic-related closures or lost business, 10.5 percent 
received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not 
worked, down from 12.7 percent in January.
      Among those not in the labor force in February, 4.2 million 
people were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, 
down from 4.7 million in January. (To be counted as unemployed, 
by definition, individuals must either be actively searching for 
work or on temporary layoff.)
      As noted earlier, severe winter weather occurred in much of 
the country in February, likely impacting some industries. Data 
from the survey of households showed that the number of employed 
people who missed work due to bad weather for all or part of the 
calendar week including the 12th was elevated compared to a 
typical February. Information on how weather can affect data on 
employment and hours can be found in Question 8 in the 
Frequently Asked Questions section of our news release and on 
our website at
      In summary, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 
379,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was little 
changed at 6.2 percent.

Last Modified Date: March 05, 2021