February Job Additions of 227,000 Continue Winning Streak for Economy


"We have seen big increases in job openings in manufacturing but employers are looking for workers with specific skills so there has been a bit of a lag in seeing the job openings translate into employment gains," Bronars said about previous reports.

Paul Heiselmann, partner in the Technology and Life Sciences practice at BDO, said his clients across industries are "cautiously optimistic."

"As a result, they're analyzing their product cycles and investing in people," he said.

In the manufacturing and tech-related sectors, for example, Heiselmann said employers are "investing conservatively but ramping up a little bit."

Weekly jobless claims ticked up last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department announced Thursday. The four-week average was essentially unchanged and stayed near a four-year low.

The mild winter is normally good news for construction employment but the housing sector is still mired in a slump, Bronars said.

U.S. home prices ended 2011 at the lowest levels since mid-2006, according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home-price indexes. The national composite index showed home prices are now down 33.8 percent from their peak in the second quarter of 2006, when the housing bubble began to burst.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.88 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 8, down from last week when it averaged 3.90 percent, Freddie Mac announced on Thursday. Last year at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.88 percent. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week averaged 3.13 percent, down from last week when it averaged 3.17 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year rate averaged 4.15 percent.

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