|U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February – The Department of Labor and Statics reported that 379,000 net new jobs were added in January. That’s a healthy turnaround from January when the economy gained just 49,000 jobs. The figure also stunned analysts who expected 210,000 new jobs due to a rapid drop in COVID cases that has allowed more of the economy to re-open. Most of the gains came from the hospitality and leisure sector which saw an increase of 355,000 jobs as employers re-hired workers upon re-opening. Of those 355,000 hospitality and leisure workers, 286,000 work in bars and restaurants, 36,000 in hotels, and 33,000 in gambling and recreation businesses. Despite the gains, the hospitality and leisure sector still has 3.5 million fewer workers than before the pandemic. The unemployment rate in February was 6.2%, down from 6.3% in January.
Stock markets this week – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 31,496.30, up 1.8% from30,932.37 last week. It is up 2.9% year-to-date. The S&P 500 closed the week at 3,841.94, up 0.8% from 3,811.15 last week. It is up 2.4% year-to-date. The NASDAQ closed the week at 12,920.15, down 2.1% from 13,192.35 last week. It is up 0.3% year-to-date.
U.S. Treasury bond yields – The 10-year treasury bond closed the week yielding 1.56%, up from 1.44% last week. The 30-year treasury bond yield ended the week at 2.28%, up from 2.17% last week. We watch bond yields because mortgage rates often follow treasury bond yields.
Mortgage rates – The March 4, 2021, Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Survey reported mortgage rates for the most popular loan products as follows: The 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.02%, up from 2.97% last week. The 15-year fixed was 2.34% unchanged from 2.34% last week. The 5-year ARM was 2.73%, downfrom 2.99% last week.