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Unemployment drops to 7.7 percent, now lowest level in four years

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From staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON (AP) — A burst of hiring last month added 236,000 U.S. jobs and reduced the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January. The robust gains suggested that the economy can strengthen further despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.

The February jobs report issued Friday by the Labor Department provided encouraging details: The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in four years. Job growth has averaged more than 200,000 a month since November. Wages rose. And the job gains were broad-based, led by the most construction hiring in six years.

Employers have been emboldened by a rebounding U.S. economy. The housing, auto and manufacturing sectors have improved. Corporate profits are strong. And the Dow Jones industrial average is at a record high.

The unemployment rate, which had been stuck at 7.8 percent or above since September, declined mostly because more people found work. Another factor was that 130,000 people without jobs stopped looking for work last month. The government doesn’t count them as unemployed.

The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households. The job gains are derived from a separate survey of employers.

– The Associated Press

Local Reaction

WUFT’s Chris Peralta spoke with University of Florida Professor of Finance Brian Gendreau about the change in the unemployment, and what it says about the economy.

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