LATEST NEWS
 Top Stories
 U.S.
  Severe Weather
  Bird Flu
 World
  Castro
  Mideast Crisis
  Iraq
 Business
 Personal Finance
 Technology
 Sports
  Sports Columns
  NASCAR
  Baseball
  College Hoops
  NBA
  NHL
  Tennis
  Golf
 Entertainment
 Health
 Science
 Politics
 Washington
 Offbeat
 Podcasts
 Blogs
 Weather
 Raw News
 NEWS SEARCH
 
 Archive Search
 SPECIAL SECTIONS
 Multimedia Gallery
 AP Video Network
 Today
 in History
 Corrections
Mar 6, 8:56 AM EST

US adds a robust 295K jobs; jobless rate falls to 5.5 pct.


AP Photo
AP Photo/Alan Diaz
Business Video

Latest Business News
US adds a robust 295K jobs; jobless rate falls to 5.5 pct.

US trade deficit in January falls 8.3 pct to $41.8 billion

Nissan recalls more Altimas for hood latch problem

As euro hits 12-year low, parity with dollar looms

Multimedia
A district summary of the Beige Book
Measuring economic stress by county nationwide
Mall malaise: shoppers browse, but don't buy
Unemployment by the numbers
Family struggles with father's unemployment
Saying an affordable goodbye
Hard times hit small car dealer
Latest Economic News
US adds a robust 295K jobs; jobless rate falls to 5.5 pct.

Egypt to offer projects worth $35 billion during conference

Bank of England votes to keep interest rates steady

China lowers growth target, promises to open industries

German factory orders down more than expected in January

US services firms grow at faster pace in February

AP survey: Why the outlook for global economy has brightened

Poland slashes interest rates to historic low of 1.5 percent

Eurozone showing signs of economic momentum

N. Korea shifts more responsibility to factories, farmers

Buy AP Photo Reprints
Interactives
Greece's Debt Threatens to Spread
State budget
gaps map
Auto industry problems trickle down, punish Tennessee county
Women give old Derby hats a makeover in tough economy
S.C. town deals with highest unemployment in South
How mortgages were bundled and sold as securities
Tracking the $700 billion financial bailout
Tracking the year's job losses
State-by-state foreclosures since 2007
Credit crisis explained
Presidents and their economic legacies
Lexicon of the financial crisis
Americans' addiction to debt

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. employers extended a healthy streak of hiring in February by adding 295,000 jobs, the 12th straight monthly gain above 200,000.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent. But the decline in the rate occurred mainly because some people out of work stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.

The strong job gains weren't enough to boost wages by much. The average hourly wage rose just 3 cents in February to $24.78 an hour.

Still, over the past 12 months, 3.3 million more Americans have gotten jobs. More jobs and lower gas prices have led many consumers to step up spending. That's boosting the economy, offsetting sluggish economies overseas and giving employers the confidence to hire.

The strengthening job market could give the Federal Reserve room to move toward raising interest rates from record lows. Most analysts expect the Fed to pave the way for higher rates by adjusting the statement it issues after its March policy meeting, to be followed by the first hike in June or September.

After the jobs report was released Friday morning, investors sold ultra-safe U.S. Treasurys, a sign that many anticipate a Fed rate hike. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.18 percent from 2.11 percent before the report was issued.

The U.S. job market and economy are easily outpacing those of other major nations. Though Europe and Japan are showing signs of growing more than last year, their economies remain feeble. The euro currency union's unemployment rate has started to fall, but at 11.2 percent it remains nearly twice the U.S. level.

The U.S. economy expanded at a breakneck annual pace of 4.8 percent in last year's spring and summer, only to slow to a tepid 2.2 percent rate in the final three months of 2014. Many economists estimate that growth is picking up slightly in the current quarter to an annual rate of 2.5 percent to nearly 3 percent.

Still, economists remain bullish about hiring despite the slowdown in growth. The fourth quarter's slowdown occurred largely because companies reduced their stockpiles of goods, which translated into lower factory output.

But companies focus more on consumer demand in making hiring decisions, and demand was strong in the October-December quarter. Americans stepped up their spending by the most in four years.

And though consumers are saving much of the cash they have from cheaper gas, spending in January still rose at a decent pace after adjusting for lower prices.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, expects the economy to grow 3 percent this year, which would be first time it's reached that level in a decade. That's fast enough to support hiring of about 250,000 a month, he said.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.