But the size of the gain is nevertheless expected to be modest as
the economy struggles to break free of the grip of unusually severe
Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 149,000 last month, with the
jobless rate holding at a five-year low of 6.6 percent, according to
a Reuters survey of economists.
"Without adverse weather we could have ended with something above
200,000," said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit
Research in New York.
Nonfarm payrolls averaged about 205,000 new jobs per month in the
first 11 months of 2013, but that figure dropped to just 94,000 for
December and January as the unseasonably cold and snowy winter
disrupted economic activity.
With snow and ice covering densely populated areas during the week
employers were surveyed for February payrolls, another soft reading
Fed officials, including Chair Janet Yellen, have viewed the
weakness in payrolls, which has been replicated in data such as
retail sales, industrial production and home building, as largely
weather-related and temporary.
On Thursday, New York Fed President William Dudley reiterated that
the economic outlook would have to change significantly for the U.S.
central bank to wind down its monthly bond purchases in a series of
measured steps this year.
Most economists expect the Fed will announce further cuts in its
stimulus at its next meeting on March 18-19.
"Once we get more seasonal weather and (if) the economic numbers do
not improve, then the Fed might well take some action," said David
Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio.
The Labor Department will release the monthly jobs report, which is
closely watched by financial markets around the globe, on Friday at
8:30 a.m. EST.
OTHER FACTORS AT PLAY
But the weather is not the only factor behind the lull in activity.
Businesses are working through a huge pile of unsold goods
accumulated in the second half of 2013, which means they have no
incentive to place new orders with manufacturers.
In addition, the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits for
more than one million Americans in December and cuts to food stamps
are also hurting spending.
[to top of second column]
Keith Hall, a former commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, said he thinks factors other than weather have weighed
"Weather effects would have shown up in hours worked rather than the
level of payroll employment. Average weekly hours have been little
changed," said Hall, a senior scholar at Mercatus Center at George
Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.
While the unemployment rate is forecast as steady, it could decline
as some of the former recipients of extended jobless benefits may no
longer be looking for work. If this is the case, they would not be
considered unemployed and in the labor market.
The private sector is expected to account for all the job gains in
February, with government payrolls expected to have declined for a
second straight month.
A seventh straight month of gains in manufacturing employment is
expected, but the pace of hiring probably slowed from the 21,000
jobs added in January.
Construction payrolls, which surprised in January by logging their
biggest one-month gain in nearly eight years, are expected to have
declined last month because of bad weather.
A rebound is expected in education and health services employment
after two straight months of declines. This sector has posted strong
jobs gains since the economic recovery started nearly five years
Average hourly earnings probably rose 0.2 percent after rising by
the same margin in January. The length of the workweek likely held
steady at an average of 34.4 hours, but severe weather could have
reduced hours for some workers.
The workweek has been hovering around 34.4 hours and 34.5 hours
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; editing by Chris Reese)
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