Strong hiring by restaurants, construction firms and business services point to growth ahead

Economic Indicators Associated Press

It's been an extended happy hour at U.S. bars and restaurants, which led hiring gains last month.

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U.S. dining establishments added 58,700 jobs in February, the Labor Department said Friday. It was a sign that solid job growth — more than 3 million positions added over the past 12 months — is causing more consumers to splurge on lunches, lattes and dinners.

The additional spending should help power overall economic growth, given that consumers account for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

All told, employers added 295,000 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate dipped from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent, the lowest level in nearly six years.

A brutally cold February in parts of the nation appeared to have had little effect on homebuilding. Construction firms added 29,000 workers. The higher-paying business services sector, which includes lawyers, accountants and engineers, added 51,000, the health care sector 32,800.

Here's a look at the jobs added or lost in each major industry category:

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Industry February 2015 January 2015 Past 12 months
Construction 29,000 49,000 321,000
Manufacturing 8,000 21,000 208,000
Retail 32,000 27,800 318,900
Transportation, warehousing 18,500 1,000 192,200
Information (Telecom, publishing) 7,000 5,000 59,000
Financial services 10,000 22,000 150,000
Professional services (Accounting, temp work) 51,000 10,000 660,000
Education and health 54,000 46,000 539,000
Hotels, restaurants, entertainment 66,000 39,000 527,000
Government 7,000 2,000 87,000
Source: Labor Department