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Unemployment rate stays at 9.7% despite challenges last month

The nation's payrolls fell by only 36,000 in February. It could have been much worse because of last month's paralyzing snowstorms, economists say.

March 05, 2010|By Don Lee

The temporary-help industry, widely seen as a harbinger of broader hiring, expanded by an additional 48,000 jobs in February, bringing to 284,000 the number added since September.

Weather probably wasn't a major factor in the Labor Department's unemployment numbers, which are based on a separate national survey of households that counts as employed those who have jobs but say they missed work because of weather factors, even if they were unpaid.

This survey, which includes self-employed people, showed 308,000 more people working in February than the previous month.

Analysts regard the payroll data as more reliable. But both sets of data have weaknesses, especially at turning points in the economy.

Forecasters are projecting the unemployment rate to rise in the coming months. A separate Labor Department measure of unemployment and underemployment that includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs rose to 16.8% last month from 16.5% in January.

Melody Boyd of Los Angeles has been officially out of work since August 2008. Her unemployment benefits expire near the end of the month. But next week, Boyd said, she has an interview for a job in the accounting section of a healthcare firm. It's her first interview in months.

"I have a spark of hope," she said.

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