*Although the overall unemployment rate only fell from 9.0 percent to 8.9 percent last month, economists are generally greeting the dip as good economic news. Indeed, on the jobs front, it maybe the best economic news in nearly two years.
Here is why: The economy added 192,000 new jobs last month – the fastest pace in jobs growth in two years and joblessness is now at its lowest level since April 2009. Unemployment has been falling for three months in a row – down from 9.8 percent in November.
Friday’s Labor Department report was good news for the administration of President Obama who has been struggling to show progress on the economy as his public approval ratings have been dropping. If February’s gains can be sustained, Obama will be in a much better position to battle Republican criticisms that his economic policies have not been working.
Meanwhile, African Americans also benefitted from last month’s jobs figures. The Black unemployment rate fell from 15.7 percent in January to 15.3 percent in February. However, it still remains nearly twice the unemployment rate for whites which stands at 8.0 percent – unchanged from January.
The unemployment rate for Hispanics also dropped – improving from 11.9 percent in January to 11.6 percent last month. Asian Americans continued to have the best employment picture among major population groups although their jobless picture changed little: 6.8 percent in February compatred to 6.9 percent in January.
However, joblessness continues to affect Black men more negatively than Black women. Last month the unemployment rate for Black females aged 20 and older was 13.0 percent compared to 16.2 percent for Black men in the same age group. This is a seldom reported trend of Black women having a better employment picture than Black men and it is not a new phenomenon.
Ten years ago, both African-American men and women had the same unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. Since then, the men’s rate has more than doubled and now is usually three to four points higher than the unemployment rate for African American women.
Finally, average hourly earnings last month was $22.87.