US jobs growth strengthens case for March rate rise

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US businesses added 235,000 jobs in February, exceeding economists' forecasts of about 200,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday that the unemployment rate had also edged lower to 4.7%.

The figures suggest that the robust US jobs market maintained its strong growth in the first full month under President Trump.

Analysts said it lifted expectations that the US Federal Reserve would raise interest rates next week.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said last week that the central bank could raise rates in March if employment and inflation figures met their expectations.

The job gains in February were boosted by 58,000 new construction jobs, the most in nearly a decade.

The growth in new US jobs - not including agricultural work - has been gathering pace in recent months, although February's gain was slightly below January's revised rise of 238,000 jobs.

"It's difficult to find anything to be down about in the jobs report, with job creation being well above the 12 month average and far exceeding what the Fed deems to be good enough," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Analysis: Andrew Walker, BBC World Service economics correspondent

Employers in the US have added more than two million jobs in the past 12 months, and the latest figures show that labour market strength continued into February.

For the Federal Reserve, one of the key issues is that the continued job growth is likely in time to contribute to higher wages and price rises.

Already financial markets were expecting that the Fed will try to pre-empt a sharp future rise in inflation by raising interest rates at a policy making meeting next week.

Today's figures reinforce that expectation.

The Fed raised rates in December to a range of 0.5% to 0.75% - only the second rise in a decade.

Alan Gayle, of Ridgeworth Investments, said: "The operative message is that the jobs market continues to strengthen, and that is likely to give the Fed a green light to raise rates when they meet next week."

Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said the number of jobs added in February would "erase any lingering doubts that the Fed might not hike interest rates next week".

"It will also be greeted with a cheer from the White House," he added.

Mr Trump has promised to create 25 million jobs over 10 years to become "the greatest jobs president ... ever".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Fed chair Janet Yellen has hinted US interest rates could rise next week

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