Non-farm payrolls had a blowout February, jumping by 313,000. It was the biggest gain in over a year, and more than 50 percent above the 200,000 number forecast by economists. On top of that, the previous two months were revised up by 54,000.
Stock investors found a lot to love in the news. Aside from its obvious evidence that growth is humming along, modest wage gains helped calm anxieties about inflation.
We’d like to cite two other positives. First, the number of construction jobs swelled by 61,000 — the biggest gain in that category since March 2007. Second, manufacturing remained healthy, with a gain of 31,000 jobs. It’s trended upward since last October.
Let’s smooth out the numbers with a three-month moving average. Including today’s number, U.S. factories are adding 32,000 workers a month, which matched the running average last seen in March 2012. For a higher reading than that, you have to look all the way back to the start of 1998.
See our post earlier this week, which anticipated this kind of improvement in the job market, saying there was greater potential for things to get better than to get worse. Interestingly, we mentioned that blowout jobs reports (+300,000 or more) had grown less common. But maybe even that will change soon, based on today’s numbers.