Job growth masks deeper weaknesses

Job seekers wait in line to speak with company representatives during a Choice Career Fair event in Seattle on Jan. 28, 2016.
Mike Kane | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Job seekers wait in line to speak with company representatives during a Choice Career Fair event in Seattle on Jan. 28, 2016.

Based on strong job creation, the U.S. economy is on a roll. But headlines like Friday's news of 242,000 new positions in February don't tell the whole story. Productivity and GDP growth are still disappointing. Nervousness is holding people back from spending more, reinforcing America's status as a slow-growth economy.

The administration of President Barack Obama has pointed to the falling unemployment rate, which held at 4.9 percent last month, as a symbol of the strength of the U.S. economy. That's valid, and a big improvement on the 2009 peak of 10 percent. But payrolls are only one measure of health, and some other statistics are less rosy.