It will take several months of strong hiring numbers to convince skeptics that the labor market is truly recovering. But a jobs creation number above 200,000 is one that both keeps pace with new entrants to the work force and whittles down the unemployment rate. Job creation last year averaged about 183,000 a month, just enough to hold the jobless rate steady.
The Defense Department has announced that it will begin furloughing its 800,000-civilian work force one day a week in April. This will show up as a drop in hours worked, and it will ripple through the economy as these workers spend less and save more, bracing for perhaps months of one day a week without pay.
There were a few down notes in Friday's report.
The long-term unemployed, more than 4.8 million Americans who have been jobless for half a year or more, rose, and they now represent about 40.2 percent of all the jobless. That's up from about 38 percent of the unemployed in January.
And the labor force participation rate fell by a tenth of a percentage point in February, suggesting that the work force shrank slightly last month.
Among the jobs categories