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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Advance copies of this statement are made available to the press
under lock-up conditions with the explicit understanding that the
data are embargoed until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
                          Statement of
                           Keith Hall
                   Bureau of Labor Statistics
                           before the
                    Joint Economic Committee
                     UNITED STATES CONGRESS

                      Friday, March 5, 2010

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

     Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the employment and
unemployment data we released this morning.
     Nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (-36,000) in
February, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent.
Employment fell in construction and information, while temporary
help services added jobs.  Severe winter weather in parts of the
country may have affected payroll employment and hours in
February.  However, as I will explain in a moment, there are too
many unknowns to say precisely how much the weather might have
affected these measures.
     Construction employment fell by 64,000 in February, about in
line with the average monthly job loss over the prior 6 months.
Job losses continued throughout the industry, although
nonresidential specialty trades again accounted for much of the
over-the-month decline.  In the information industry, employment
fell by 18,000.
     Temporary help services employment increased by 48,000 over
the month.  Since last September, this industry has added 284,000
jobs.  Health care employment continued to trend up in February.
Employment in most other industries showed little or no change.
     Average weekly hours for all employees in the private sector
decreased by one-tenth of an hour in February.  Average weekly
hours declined more significantly in construction and
manufacturing, 0.5 and 0.4 hour, respectively.  These declines
likely reflect time lost due to the severe winter weather.
     Average hourly earnings of all employees in the private
sector rose by 3 cents in February to $22.46.  Over the past 12
months, average hourly earnings have risen by 1.9 percent.  From
January 2009 to January 2010, the Consumer Price Index for All
Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased by 2.7 percent.
     Turning now to data from the survey of households, most key
labor force measures were essentially unchanged in February.  The
unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent, with jobless rates for
the major worker groups showing little or no change.  Of the 14.9
million unemployed in February, the proportion who had been
jobless for 27 weeks or more was 40.9 percent, little different
from the all-time high of 41.2 percent reached in January.
     The number of individuals working part time who preferred
full-time work rose from 8.3 to 8.8 million in February,
partially offsetting a large decrease in January.  Involuntary
part-time employment levels had held at or near 9.2 million in
the final months of 2009.
     Before closing, I would like to return to the issue of how
the severe winter weather in February may have affected the
payroll employment estimates released today.  Major snowstorms
struck parts of the country during the reference period for our
establishment survey.  Many schools, government agencies, and
businesses closed temporarily, and many people were off work for
a time because of the storms.
     In the establishment survey, workers who do not receive any
pay for the entire pay period are not counted as employed.
Therefore, it is possible that the storms had some negative
impact on payroll employment.  However, not every closure or
temporary absence causes a drop in employment.  Workers are
counted as employed in the establishment survey if they are paid
for a single hour during the reference pay period, whether they
worked or not.  Also, half of all workers have bi-weekly, semi-
monthly, or monthly pay periods.  I would assume that most of
them worked during the part of the pay period that preceded or
followed the snow events.  In addition, we do not know how many
workers may have been added to payrolls for snow removal,
cleanup, and repairs due to the storms.  Nor do we know how new
hiring or separations were affected by the weather.  For those
reasons, we cannot say how much February's payroll employment was
affected by the severe weather.
     In our household survey, persons with a job who miss work
for weather-related events are counted as employed whether or not
they are paid for the time off.
     In summary, nonfarm payroll employment was little changed in
February, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent.
     My colleagues and I now would be glad to answer your

Last Modified Date: March 05, 2010