The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports today that the economy added 227,000 new jobs in February, another sign that the economic recovery is picking up steam. The unemployment rate held steady for the second month in a row at 8.3 percent -- more than a full percentage point lower than this time last year.
The unemployment rate for people 45 and over is unchanged from January, at 6.6 percent. However, that's considerably lower than the overall unemployment rate.
The labor reports notes that 82,000 of those new jobs came from professional and business services, a category that includes accountants, engineers, architects, information technology experts, and other highly skilled vocations. Those tend to be relatively well-paying jobs -- the average compensation is more than $50,000 a year, according to BLS data -- that are held by experienced, well-educated workers. That sector has gained 1.4 million jobs since September 2009, when the economy was scraping bottom. Manufacturing also gained 31,000 jobs, a sign that companies are gearing up to produce more goods.
Bloomberg News reports that job growth exceeded economists' forecasts. "The labor market has found its legs in the last few months, and it looks like there's enough of a broad base that the momentum can be sustained," Julia Coronado, an economist for BNP Paribas in New York, tells the news service.
The economy has been struggling to recover for the past several years, and encouraging signs sometimes have been followed by disappointing stalls. But according to this New York Times analysis, there are other signs that this time, growth is more solid. Job growth is more evenly spread across industries and regions of the country, and consumers, who've paid down much of their debt from the recession, increasingly are feeling secure enough to make major purchases, such as automobiles.
That may bode well for job seekers such as Martin Okekearu, a 58-year-old engineer from Kansas City, Mo., who has been looking for work for eight months. Okekearu tells The Times that in the past two weeks, he's received two promising inquiries from manufacturing firms in his area. One potential employer found Okekearu's resume on a local unemployment center's website, where it had languished for six months.
Percentage of Middle-Aged Workers Rises: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College dug up this insightful tidbit from another recent BLS report. In 1990, 11.9 percent of the labor force was 55 or older. By 2010, that proportion had increased to 19.5 percent, and by 2020, BLS is projecting that a quarter of the nation's workers will be in their mid-fifties or beyond.
The Boss Is Back: Bruce Springsteen (top), who turns 63 this September, apparently is one of those older workers who isn't yet ready to retire. This week, the veteran rocker released The Wrecking Ball, his 17th studio album. The Daily Beast offers this compendium of critics' reactions to the new CD, including Rolling Stone's verdict that it is "the most despairing, confrontational and musically turbulent album Bruce Springsteen has ever made." In this article for Nerve.com, critic Randy Abramson ranks Springsteen's albums in order of quality. Born to Run, the 1975 masterpiece of histrionic rock baroque that catapulted the Boss to superstar status, predictably, is at the top of the list. But Abramson makes an interesting case that Springsteen's more recent albums, such as 2007's Magic and 2002's The Rising are even more artistically daring and emotionally powerful than hallowed portions of the Springsteen canon. From Springsteen's VEVO channel on YouTube, here's a video of one of his new songs, "We Take Care of Our Own."
The Risks of Finding New Love in Midlife: The Wall Street Journal's Life & Culture section offers this analysis of the causes of the rising divorce rate among middle-aged people. One of the biggest risk factors, it turns out, is having been married before. Second, third and subsequent marriages have a 10 percent greater chance of ending up in divorce court than first marriages.
Eight Career Lessons from Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games: Okay, so she's a fictional character in a horrific dystopia. Nevertheless, the young heroine of Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games, which is coming out this month on the big screen, has some useful insights for middle-aged professionals, CareerBliss.com reports. One example: Know your skill. "Rather than trying to be great at a number of things, like Katniss, job seekers should put in hours practicing and perfecting one skill and become its master," CareerBliss' Ritika Trikha explains.
Five Secrets to Using Twitter for Job Hunting: SecondAct blogger Michelle Rafter reports that more companies are using the social network to find new hires and offers these smart tips for job seekers.
This Will Make iPad Users in Minnesota Envious: The Norwegian branch of global home furnishings retailer IKEA has come up with an ingenious product called Beröra, which allows users to swipe, press, and play on their smartphone and tablet screens while wearing mittens or gloves -- without having to purchase a specially designed pair. Better yet, IKEA came up with this entertaining video to market the concept. Fast Company reports that IKEA doesn't presently have plans to market the Beröra in the U.S., but it's hard to imagine that the company won't do it eventually.