Nonfarm Payrolls Numbers edge higher, while the Unemployment Rate edges lower for February 2011

Nonfarm payrolls reported an improvement of 192,000 jobs for the month of February, which was slightly below expectations for a 200,000 plus number.  Interestingly, the unemployment number declined to 8.9% from 9.0%, which was slightly counterintuitive.  Normally the unemployment number edges up as more entrants are encouraged to come back to the job market.  The overall participation rate remained unchanged in the month of February.  The January number was revised up to 63,000 jobs from 36,000 jobs, a continuation of a slowly improving trend.  After a positive ADP report, the market was anticipating a somewhat stronger nonfarm payrolls number for the month of February.  This business cycle has been plagued with a weak employment picture as companies have pared their operations to the bone and they have also been slow to hire back.  Governments both on the local and at the state and federal levels continue to face high budgetary deficits and as a result are cutting jobs.  Markets initially will view these numbers as somewhat mixed but it cannot be denied that we are certainly on an improving trend..

Robert Floyd, CFA, is Lead Manager for BirchLeaf Investments (