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Unemployment Ticks Down To 7.7 Percent

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in February on a gain of 236,000 jobs, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The rate matches the figure from November of last year, which was the lowest jobless rate since December 2008.

Economists had expected the February rate to remain unchanged at 7.9 percent.

“The unemployment rate … has shown little movement, on net, since September 2012,” the Labor Department said after revising its estimate of January gains from 157,000 to 119,000.

At the same time, the department tweaked its December figure higher, estimating 219,000 jobs were added in the final month of 2012, rather than 196,000 as previously reported.

The department said professional and business services added 73,000 jobs in February after a gain of 16,000 in January.

Consistent with Wednesday’s Automatic Data Processing Inc. report on private-sector jobs, the government said the bulk of February’s gain came in service-oriented positions.

The Labor Department said 11,000 new accounting and bookkeeping jobs were added in February.

The construction sector added 48,000 jobs and healthcare added 32,000.

Retailers added 24,000 positions in February.

The average workweek “edged up” by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours, the report said.

In manufacturing, the average workweek was extended by 0.2 hours to 40.9 hours and factory overtime rose by 0.1 hours to 3.4 hours.

The average hourly wage rose 4 cents in February to $23.82 per hour, the department said.

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