Jobless Rate Holds Steady, Raising Hopes of Recovery


The New York Times

The American economy lost fewer jobs than expected last month, bolstering hopes that the worst may finally be over in the wrenching event known as the Great Recession.

The monthly snapshot of the job market released by the Labor Department on Friday was hardly cause for celebration: about 36,000 jobs disappeared from the economy in February, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent.

Yet compared with monthly job losses of more than 650,000 a year earlier, and against a backdrop of recent news viewed as pointing to the possibility of a slide back into recession, most economists construed the report as a sign that a tenuous recovery might be gaining momentum.

“It’s strikingly good,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who has been skeptical about earlier signs of recovery. “It’s much better than it had been looking.”

The February job losses followed a drop of 26,000 in January. Most experts now expect the economy to begin steadily gaining jobs during the spring, as employers edge toward hiring.

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