The unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since December 2008 in February, as nonfarm payroll employment added 236,000 jobs to the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The monthly growth pushed down the unemployment rate from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, according to the report.

The unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since December 2008 in February, as nonfarm payroll employment added 236,000 jobs to the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The monthly growth pushed down the unemployment rate from 7.9 percent in January to 7.7 percent in February, according to the report

The improving economic conditions captured in the report are partly attributable to robust growth in the construction industry, which added 48,000 jobs to the economy in February, according to the bureau.

Residential construction jobs were up 3.1 percent year over year in February, more than twice the increase of the national employment rate over the last year, said Jed Jolko, Trulia’s chief economist, in a blog post. That sector has added 125,000 jobs since the housing market hit bottom, while related industries have contributed an additional 184,000, he added.

Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, said the report indicated that the housing recovery remains a bright spot in an otherwise skittish economy. 

"The strengthening trend in hiring over the past six months provides some comfort that the economy will be resilient enough to withstand additional headwinds that may lie ahead," said Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae. "A robust increase in construction employment of 48,000, following a string of decent gains over the past several months, confirms our view that, despite overall seesaw economic growth, the housing recovery will continue to gather strength this year." 

In a statement on the report, the Obama administration also called out the construction industry’s recent progress.

"In the last two years the construction sector has added 306,000 jobs, with half of that increase occurring in the last five months," the White House said in a statement.

The White House cautioned that the statistics in the report were compiled before sequestration began, implying that job growth could take a hit as a result of the spending cuts.

"The administration continues to urge Congress to move toward a sustainable federal budget in a responsible way that balances tax loophole closing, entitlement reform and sensible spending cuts, while making critical investments in the economy that promote growth and job creation and protecting our most vulnerable citizens." 

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