The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the economy added 175,000 jobs in February, besting economists' expectations of a roughly 150,000 payroll gain. Many had warned of downside risks, given February's bad weather—which hit during the period BLS conducts its employment surveys—and two weak labor-market reports released earlier in the week.
It was—and is—tough to tell. Teasing the precise weather effects out of the report is a difficult task. Just ask BLS, which says so explicitly: "It is not possible to quantify the effect of extreme weather on estimates of over-the-month change in employment," the new report says. "What we need to do and will be doing in the weeks ahead is to try to get a firmer handle on exactly how much of that set of soft data can be explained by weather," Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chair, said at a recent hearing.
Now, some economists are pointing to Friday's report as evidence that the poor performance of the past few months was the result of the weather after all, and the economy is due for a payback.
The addition of jobs has been growing at a steady pace over the last few years. Monthly employment gains averaged 174,000 in 2011, 186,000 in 2012 and 194,000 in 2013.