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Jobs report is strong, but Fed can wait on hike

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Three big numbers from a big jobs Friday

Hiring was stronger than expected in February, signaling the economy is far from recession, but the fact there was no wage growth should keep the Fed from raising rates until at least midyear.

There were 242,000 nonfarm payrolls added in February, far better than the 190,000 expected by economists. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent, and revisions boosted job growth by a total of 30,000 for December and January. Disappointing, however was the decline in hourly earnings, falling by 3 cents to $25.35, after rising by 12 cents in January. Wages were up 2.2 percent year over year, weaker than the 2.5 percent gain in January.

"The big story right now is the labor market just shows no sign of slowing down," said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "The labor market has a lot of momentum here and people forget the payrolls are the No. 1 coincident indicator for the U.S. economy. ... The idea the economy is slipping into recession is way over done."