U.S. added 379,000 jobs in February as unemployment rate ticks down to 6.2%

According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, the U.S. added 379,000 new jobs in February, and the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2%. Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick joined CBSN to discuss.

Video Transcript

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ANNE-MARIE GREEN: In MoneyWatch, as Congress races to give Americans an economic relief package, new numbers are giving us an idea of what happened in the US job market during the first full month of the Biden presidency. According to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, the US added 379,000 new jobs last month. The unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2%.

Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark joins us now to talk a little bit more about this. Mark Hamrick. Didn't have your last name in that script. Mark, thank you so much for joining us right now to talk a little bit more about this. So I guess that's good news, right? We've added more jobs. Do we know what sectors are benefiting, are improving?

MARK HAMRICK: Yeah, good to be with you both, Anne-Marie. Well, yeah, I think these days we're sort of very hungry for a scintilla of good news, and so it almost gets magnified when we get something like that, right? So what we really had this morning was attention shifting to the payrolls number, which is basically the number of jobs added on the month. And that came in much better than expected, as you noted in the lead-in.

And what was really leading the way there was really the most heavily battered part of the economy when it comes to employment. That's leisure and hospitality, the sector that includes, but isn't limited to, bars and restaurants. But even so, that significant sector of the economy remains at a deficit of jobs, 3 and 1/2 million compared to where it was before the pandemic began.

So we're beginning to see the economy open up a bit. We're beginning to see employers bring workers back at a steadier pace. But we have a heck of a lot more work to do in that regard.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: So Mark, the February jobs report is essentially the first real snapshot of the economy under the Biden administration. What is your analysis on how the administration is dealing with the economy amid the pandemic?

MARK HAMRICK: Well, I think, first of all, it's still very early days for the administration. This data is captured around the second week of the month, so they weren't even a month into the administration. So-- but I do think that whether it's Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell talking about it or the president or members of his administration, we know that the way out of the pandemic has to do with vaccines.

And the fact that we've had such better news on the vaccine supply now, I think gives us even better hope that the reopening of the economy can occur more quickly than expected. And obviously, you're going to get an adrenaline boost, truly an economic shot in the arm here in coming days if, indeed, the next round of stimulus legislation is approved. And that'll do a lot to really juice the economy.

ANNE-MARIE GREEN: So let us talk about that because, you know, the economy is like a blimp. It's going to take a while to make that turn around. So in the meantime, people have to sort of stay afloat. It is sort of on its way. The $1.9 trillion package passed in the House. Senate has to debate and vote on it. What sort of a difference do you think this will make?

MARK HAMRICK: I think it'll make a big difference. Hopefully, it's not like the Hindenburg and go crashing to the ground in flames. And I don't-- I don't think that will be the case. But you know, first of all, let's start with those stimulus payments. Because we had a big rebound, most recently, in the monthly retail sales data. And much of this money is going to be spent.

And then, of course, I think the most important aspects are the funding that have to do with beleaguered public health departments that were basically allowed to wither on the vine before this crisis occurred and the fact that we'll have, essentially, a continuation of the unemployment benefits at a heightened level, possibly $300 or $400 a month, depending on where they come down on that in the vote. I think it's probably going to end up being at $300, in terms of above the what I would say is typically a mediocre benefit that's provided by most states.

So I think it's going to be the difference between, let's say, a modest reopening of the economy and a strong reopening of the economy in the coming months. And this is why financial markets have really been on edge here recently. The fear is that we might actually have too much growth, too much of a rebound in the economy. But Federal Reserve Chair Powell is basically saying, let's just sort of let's see how this unfolds, and if the Fed needs to come in with a response, it will. But their bet is that it will not be sort of a precarious situation with respect to too much growth or too much inflation.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: All right, Mark Hamrick, as always, we thank you for your insights. Appreciate it.

MARK HAMRICK: Thank you. Good to be with you.