WASHINGTON -- The nation's unemployment rate fell in February to a new four-year low of 7.7% as employers added a stronger-than-expected 236,000 jobs over the month, thanks in good part to the rebounding housing market.
The Labor Department said Friday that the new jobless rate, which declined from 7.9% in January, was the lowest since December 2008, when the unemployment figure was 7.3%.
Although some of the rate drop was the result of workers leaving the labor force, the improvement reflected solid job gains across a broad swath of industries. Growth was led by the construction sector, which added 48,000 jobs last month -- the most in a single month since March 2007.
The strengthening housing market also gave a lift to other sectors: Employment in financial services benefited from the addition of nearly 9,000 new jobs at real estate and leasing offices. Furniture makers and retailers also bulked up, as did architectural and engineering services.