Our nation’s labor market continued to register solid growth in the month of February. The economy added 233,000 private sector jobs last month, while the unemployment rate held steady at a three-year low of 8.3 percent.
We’ve had 24 straight months of private sector job growth, adding more than 3.9 million jobs to an economy that was bleeding almost 800,000 jobs in a single month when President Obama took office. U.S. job growth over the last six months has been the strongest since before the recession began in 2006.
U.S. labor force participation is on the rise. The American people are more confident that they can find work because they see a strengthening economy. The consumer confidence index is at its highest level in a year, and many employers are responding by adding to their payrolls.
February’s accelerated job growth was widespread across a range of industries, including 82,000 new jobs in professional and business services, 61,000 in health care and social assistance, 44,000 in leisure and hospitality, and 31,000 in manufacturing. The continued growth in the manufacturing sector is encouraging. This industry, which lost more than 2 million jobs through the recession, has added back 429,000 positions in the last two years.
Now that more jobs are being created, we need to help American workers obtain new skills to be successful in today’s rapidly changing labor market. We can make great strides here if we act on President Obama’s proposal to forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses so employers in high-growth industries can put Americans in jobs requiring specific technical skills.
One area of continued concern is construction, which lost 13,000 jobs in February. The president has put forward a specific plan to develop the nation’s infrastructure, which will have an immediate effect on this industry and the workers who depend on it. We need to build and modernize roads, rails, runways and schools, which would create thousands of good jobs in short order. Infrastructure investments are sorely needed across the country, and our unemployed construction workers deserve a bipartisan deal and the jobs it would bring.
Last month, Congress extended unemployment benefits and payroll tax relief, proving that it is possible for lawmakers to work together without the drama we saw last year around the debt ceiling debate. Uncertainty from the political environment has derailed our recovery before. By coming together on the challenges before us, we can continue to quicken the pace of our recovery and put more Americans back to work.