The unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage point to 5.5 percent in February, even as the participation rate remained below 63 percent, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The economy added some 295,000 non-farm jobs, mainly in the public sector (plus 250,000) and wage and salary workers (plus 500,000) in health care, construction and food service. There was a 340,000 decrease in employment for the self-employed.
Unemployment also fell in the metric that includes discouraged workers and those who are not actively looking but claim to be ready. Unemployment for these people decreased 0.3 percent down to 11 percent — and down 1.6 percent compared to February 2014.
While the adult rate is relatively stable, unemployment is still high for 16-19 year olds. White youths saw their rate decrease 1.4 percent to 15 percent, but young African-Americans saw theirs reach 30 percent, a 0.3 percent increase. Hispanic youths saw their unemployment rate decrease by over 2 percent, down to 19.8 percent.
This decrease, however, is in part due to a lower participation rate. Hispanic youth saw a 1 percent decrease down to 32.2 percent. For the population as a whole, participation rates are still hovering around their 1978 lows at 62.8 percent, a 0.1-percent decrease compared to January.
The number of part-time employees also fell nearly 150,000 to 6.54 million outside the farming sector.