Payrolls dropped 36,000 last month after a revised 26,000 decrease in January, figures from the Labor Department in Washington showed. Employment fell in construction and increased at temporary-help services.
Blizzards during the week that the government surveys businesses and households on jobs set seasonal snowfall records in cities including Washington and Philadelphia, prompting many Americans to stay home. The economic expansion that began last year has yet to generate sustained gains in employment, raising the risk that the recovery will cool as households keep a lid on spending.
About 290,000 people on average say bad weather has prevented them from getting to work, according to February figures going back three decades.
Companies have been reluctant to hire even after the world’s largest economy grew at a 5.9 percent annual rate in the last three months of 2009, the most in six years. The labor market may be slow to recover the 8.4 million jobs lost since the recession began, giving the Federal Reserve scope to keep interest rates low and putting pressure on President Barack Obama and lawmakers to foster job growth.
The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- rose to 16.8 percent from 16.5 percent.
Today’s report from the Labor Department showed that government payrolls decreased by 18,000 in February. State and local governments reduced employment by 25,000 during the month, while the federal government added 7,000. The increase at the federal level reflected in part the hiring of 15,000 temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census.
Factory payrolls increased 1,000 in February after rising 20,000 in the prior month.
Payrolls at builders fell 64,000 last month after decreasing 77,000. Financial firms reduced payrolls by 10,000, after a 13,000 decline the prior month.
Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, added 24,000 workers after an increase of 27,000 in January.
The number of temporary workers increased 48,000 in February. Payrolls at temporary-help agencies often turn up before total employment because companies prefer to see a steady increase in demand before taking on permanent staff.