The jobless rate fell in part because of the vagaries the Labor Department uses to calculate the headline rate — there was an increase of 198,000 in those considered not in the labor force, while those classified as unemployed fell by 300,000 and the ranks of the employed decreased by 45,000, according to the household survey.
A more encompassing unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers as well as those holding jobs part time for economic reasons, often called the “real” unemployment rate, plunged to 7.3 percent in February from 8.1 percent in January. Those employed part time for economic reasons tumbled by 837,000 to 4.3 million while those completing temporary jobs fell by 225,000, which a Labor Department official said was a consequence of the government shutdown that ended in late January.
“A shockingly low jobs figure for February does not change the labor market narrative by itself,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. “The three-month trend in job gains remains solid while survey data suggest no letup in demand for workers by employers.”
Among major worker groups, the jobless rate for Hispanics also declined sharply to 4.3 percent from 4.9 percent in January. The rate for African-Americans rose two-tenths of a point to 7 percent, while the level for whites declined to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent.