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Economist pleased by 'very strong' jobs report

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In another positive sign for the economy, the United States added 236,000 jobs in February, according to a federal Labor Department report released today, cutting unemployment from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent, — the lowest level since December 2008.

James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, called the numbers “a very strong report,” noting that in 2011 and 2012, 2.3 million jobs were added annually on average.

“Based on the first two months of this year, we are on track to add 2.4 million jobs in 2013,” he said. “Growth of that nature will make a real significant dent in the unemployment rate going forward.”

The job gains were the highest since November, and were led by 73,000 new hires in professional service positions. Construction added 48,000 jobs, health care added 32,000 and retail was up by 24,000.

All hiring took place in the private sector. Governments cut 10,000 positions, continuing a four-year trend.

The news was particularly welcome after many economists predicted a hiring slowdown in early 2013 because of budget disputes, higher tax rates and looming federal spending cuts.

“There has been a lot of worry about removing the payroll tax breaks, the sequester and the gridlock in Washington,” Hughes said. “But those things did not seem to inhibit employers from hiring.”

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