Instant view: Strong job gains in February, unemployment drops

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Employers hired more workers in February than in any month since May last year and the unemployment rate fell to a near two-year low, raising hopes the economic recovery has gathered critical momentum.

KEY POINTS: * Nonfarm payrolls increased 192,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, above market expectations for 185,000 jobs. Data for December and January was revised to show 58,000 more jobs created than previously estimated. * The peak of monthly employment last May was when payrolls were being boosted by government hiring for a census. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent, the lowest since April 2009, from 9.0 percent in January as more people reported finding work. * "We have moved into the expansion phase of the economic cycle and the economy is self-sustaining," said Brian Levitt, an economist at OppenheimerFunds in New York. * Still, February's bounce in employment after payrolls were depressed by extreme weather in January is unlikely to sway the Federal Reserve from its ultra-easy monetary policies.

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COMMENTS:

VIMOMBI NSHOM, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS:

"Related employment measures had indicated February's numbers would rebound (both ISMs employment components rose in February, and ADP estimated 217k jobs were created) and most of the sectors within this report that had job losses in January likely elevated by bad weather, are now showing growth. Averaging the two months of payrolls gives a steady job rate of 128k/month, which is more aligned with trend since payrolls turned positive in October."

MARK LUSCHINI, CHIEF INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, JANNEY MONTGOMERY SCOTT, PHILADELPHIA

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