jobsThe Labor Department announced Friday, unemployment in the U.S. has dropped to a seven-year low of 5.5%— the level normally considered the mark of a healthy job market. Yet that number isn’t as encouraging as it might sound.

The jobless rate fell in February from 5.7% mainly because many people gave up looking for work and were no longer officially counted among the unemployed, the government reported.

What’s more, wage gains remained sluggish last month. Those trends suggest that the job market, while improving, isn’t quite as healthy as it looks.

In the week ending February 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted unemployment initial claims was 320,000, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 313,000. The 4-week moving average was 304,750, an increase of 10,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 294,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.8% for the week ending February 21, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 21 was 2,421,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up 3,000 from 2,401,000 to 2,404,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,403,500, an increase of 3,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 750 from 2,399,000 to 2,399,750.

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 310,497 in the week ending February 28, an increase of 29,858 (or 10.6%) from the previous week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 23,491 (or 8.4%) from the previous week. There were 317,832 initial claims in the comparable week in 2014.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.1% during the week ending February 21, unchanged from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,832,170, an increase of 79,402 (or 2.9%) from the preceding week. The seasonal factors had expected an increase of 60,104 (or 2.2%) from the previous week. A year earlier the rate was 2.6% and the volume was 3,375,731

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending February 14 was 2,806,835, a decrease of 59,912 from the previous week. There were 3,438,475 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2014.

No state was triggered “on” the Extended Benefits program during the week ending February 14. Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 770 in the week ending February 21, a decrease of 250 from the prior week. There were 1,251 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 195 from the preceding week.

There were 15,908 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending February 14, a decrease of 1,269 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 22,603, a decrease of 1,184 from the prior week.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending February 14 were in Alaska (4.5), New Jersey (3.7), Connecticut (3.4), Rhode Island (3.4), Pennsylvania (3.3), Montana (3.2), Massachusetts (3.1), Puerto Rico (3.1), Illinois (2.9), and Wisconsin (2.9).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 21 were in Massachusetts (+3,807), Kentucky (+2,926), Illinois (+2,777), Pennsylvania (+2,264), and Ohio (+2,134), while the largest decreases were in California (-3,832), New York (-2,512), Washington (-1,816), Oregon (-1,216), and Missouri (-999).

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