WASHINGTON (AP) — The Labor Department releases employment data today and economists surveyed by FactSet predict continued job growth and a drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 7.9.
The economists forecast that employers added 152,000 jobs in February, about the same as in January.
More hiring is needed to swiftly reduce the unemployment rate, which has been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September. Job gains of at least 100,000 a month are needed just to keep up with population growth and prevent the unemployment rate from rising.
From November through January, monthly job growth has averaged 200,000, up from 150,000 for the previous three months. Most economists expect job gains of about 180,000 a month this year. That's about the same as last year, when the rate fell 0.7 percentage point.
Several other reports this week have raised hopes that hiring could soon accelerate.