The monthly jobs report came out on Friday, and things are pretty good overall.
The big headline numbers were great: The economy added 242,000 jobs in February, much higher than the 195,000 that economists estimated, and the unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent, which is nice and low.
But if you drill down into the data, the picture is a little murkier.
Here are four things we know about the economy from the details in this report:
1) Wages aren't growing much, and it's hard to say why.
Average hourly earnings were down by 3 cents in February, to $25.35. Year-over-year, wages are up about 2.2 percent. That's not great -- although, thanks to very low oil prices and low inflation, it's not terrible either. But it's worth asking why wage growth since 2010 hasn't been as robust as growth in previous recoveries.
2) Nonetheless, people are coming back into the labor force.
As we said earlier, the economy added 242,000 jobs this month. But perhaps more importantly, details in the household survey show that more than 500,000 entered the labor force by starting to look for work again. In order to be officially unemployed, a person must not have a job and must be looking for work. Discouraged workers, who have given up looking for jobs, aren't counted as part of the labor force. It's a sign of a healthy economy when those people start looking for jobs again, even if they don't find work immediately.
3) But the unemployment rate for blacks is twice the unemployment rate for whites.
The unemployment rate for whites in the United States is 4.3 percent. For blacks, it's 8.8 percent. This is an economic dynamic that has been persistent since the Labor Department started tracking unemployment by race back in the 1970s. The chart below is not really America's best look:
4) There is a lot of growth in low-wage industries.
The retail industry added 55,000 jobs last month, and food service added 40,000. These have been some of the strongest growth industries over the last few years, which means the economy is adding a lot of low wage, service sector jobs. That said, the economy also added a lot of health care (38,000) and construction (19,000) jobs in February, which tend to pay quite well.