t's getting better all the time. The Labor Department announced on Friday that the economy gained an impressive 227,000 jobs in February, the latest in a spate of reports indicating that the economic recovery is "growing stronger." The feds' revised stats for December and January also show that the economy added 61,000 more jobs than previously estimated. (The December number jumped from 203,000 to 223,000, and January leaped from 243,000 to 284,000.) The jobless rate, however, remains unchanged at 8.3 percent, as more unemployed workers returned to the labor force to look for jobs. Here, six takeaways:
1. The economy is clearly on the upswing
These numbers are "terrific," Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, tells Politico. Private businesses created 233,000 jobs in February, and wages are rising. Hiring was strong in the manufacturing, health care, and restaurant sectors. And about 1.2 million jobs were created in the past six months, the best half-year performance since 2006, says Alex Kowalski at Bloomberg.
2. Even the public sector looks better
The government shed 6,000 jobs in February, as cash-strapped state and local governments laid off workers to stay afloat. But that's "negligible" in the big picture, says Brad Plumer at The Washington Post. For years, "the public sector has been absolutely hemorrhaging workers — around 500,000 since Obama took office." In 2011, government slashed 22,000 jobs a month. Thankfully, that "trend appears to be winding down."
3. But the rate of hiring isn't fast enough
The economy is "adding jobs quickly enough to feel like growth," but "it's not nearly fast enough to return the economy to full employment," says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. "For that, we'd need a nice string of months in the 300,000-400,000 range." Remember, the Labor Department still says that 12.8 million Americans are unemployed.
4. And the recovery could still be derailed
"The recovery has been here before," says Shaila Dewan at The New York Times. Early last year, we saw 200,000-plus jobs added for three straight months. But thanks to the European debt crisis, the Japanese earthquake, and other global factors, job growth soon slowed to "a crawl." Yeah, "everyone got burned last year," economist Ellen Zentner tells the Times, "from being elated over the better economic data only to have their hopes dashed come spring." So let's not "breathe easy" quite yet.
5. Still, this is good news for Obama...
President Obama "has clearly improved" his re-election chances with these numbers, says Jonathan Chait at New York. Yeah, Obama is basing his campaign on a "'recovery storyline," says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, and the positive economic numbers are backing him up.
6. …And bad news for the Republican candidates
The jobs report puts the Republican presidential candidates, who have been slamming Obama's economic stewardship, in a pickle, says Michael Shear at The New York Times. Business-savvy frontrunner Mitt Romney will "have to find a way to explain the contrast between an improving economy and his criticism" of Obama's policies. He faces the difficult task of convincing voters that the "job growth in recent months would have been better if someone other than Obama" had been in charge. "Someone like himself."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why we need a maximum wage
- Why Antonin Scalia was right to defend a drug dealer
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- The sexual politics of Game of Thrones just got enormously worse
- Why Narendra Modi is not a shoo-in to become India's next prime minister
- Why Mindy Kaling — not Lena Dunham — is the body positive icon of the moment
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 9 ways music can improve your life
Subscribe to the Week