Payroll jobs increased 295,000 in February after healthy increases of 239,000 in January and 329,000 in December. January and December were revised down a net 18,000. Market expectations for February were for a 230,000 increase.
The unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent in January. Analysts forecast 5.6 percent. The labor force participation rate edged down marginally to 62.8 percent from 62.9 percent in December.
Turning back to the establishment survey, private payrolls increased 288,000 in February after a 237,000 gain the month before. The median forecast was for 225,000.
Goods-producing jobs increased 29,000 after a 64,000 boost in January. Manufacturing increased 8,000 after rising 21,000 in January. Construction advanced 29,000 in February after gaining 49,000 the month before. Mining declined 9,000 after slipping 6,000 in the month before. The latest numbers indicated that the manufacturing and construction sectors are continuing modest improvement.
Private service-providing industries jumped 259,000 after a gain of 173,000 in January. In February, food services and drinking places added 59,000 jobs. In February, employment in health care rose by 24,000. Transportation and warehousing added 19,000 jobs in February and retail trade gained 22,000 jobs.
Government jobs rose by 7,000 in February after a rise of 2,000 the month before.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.1 percent, compared to 0.5 percent in January. Expectations were for a 0.2 percent gain. The average workweek held steady at 34.6 hours, equaling expectations.
Overall, the latest employment situation suggests the labor market is gradually gaining strength. The odds of a June rate increase by the Fed just went up.