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|U.S. labor market flexes muscles in February|
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employment accelerated in February and the jobless rate fell to a more than 6-1/2 year low of 5.5 percent, signs that could encourage the Federal Reserve to consider hiking interest rates in June. Nonfarm payrolls rose 295,000 last month after rising 239,000 in January, the Labor Department said on Friday. The decline in the unemployment rate from 5.7 percent in January took it to its lowest level since May 2008 The data suggested the U.S job market continued to strengthen, although the drop in the jobless rate largely reflected people leaving the labor force. They had forecast the jobless rate falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.6 percent.
|Futures little changed ahead of payrolls report|
U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Friday, with the S&P 500 on track for its second straight weekly decline, ahead of the monthly employment report. * The February jobs report is scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. and is forecast to show a 240,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls after a 257,000 gain in January. Investors are waiting on the data as they attempt to gauge the timing of an interest rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve. * All 31 U.S. banks passed a test of how they would do in another possible economic crisis, the Federal Reserve said on Thursday, but those with large trading books came out weak because of new elements in the check-up.