by Sinclair Broadcast Group & the Associated Press
More than 300,000 new jobs were created in February as the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent for the fifth straight month, according to the Department of Labor.
Construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing, financial activities, and mining all saw increases in employment during the month.
It was the biggest single-month surge in hiring since July 2016, but hourly wage growth slipped to 2.6 percent from 2.8 percent in January.
The black unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent, returning to near-historic lows after it spiked in January to 7.7 percent.
Job growth exceeded already optimistic expectations, and figures for December and January were revised up to include 54,000 additional jobs.
The surge of job gains may reflect, in part, confidence among some businesses that the Trump administration's tax cuts will accelerate growth. Consumers are also benefiting from higher after-tax income, which grew last month at the fastest pace in a year, aided by the tax cuts.
For now, consumers have pulled back somewhat on spending despite income gains, thereby setting the stage for potentially stronger spending gains in coming months. After-tax incomes in January — which include benefit payments from the government and business income as well as wages — climbed by the most in a year. They were boosted, in part, by the Trump administration's tax cuts and company bonuses that were paid out in response to corporate tax cuts.
And manufacturers expanded at the fastest pace in nearly 14 years in February, according to a survey of purchasing managers.
The housing market, too, remains generally solid, with demand for homes strong in much of the country, though rising mortgage rates may begin to slow sales.
Manufacturers have now added 224,000 new jobs in the last year, and the sector could be primed for more growth as a result of tariffs President Trump is imposing on imported steel and aluminum. However, some economists say those gains would be offset by job losses among companies that use metals. The Trade Partnership estimates the tariffs will ultimately cost the U.S. economy about 145,000 jobs.
This story will be updated.