The Labor Department on Friday said nonfarm payroll employment increased by 192,000 in February, as the unemployment rate fell below 9% for the first time since early 2009. The rate is down 0.9 percentage points since November.

Economists had been looking for a gain in the 175,000 range but in recent days hoped to see 200,000. Stocks were down slightly in the early going Friday but losses accelerated as investors weighed the jobs report against continually rising oil prices.

Job gains occurred in manufacturing, construction, professional and business services, health care, and transportation and warehousing. More importantly, 222,000 jobs were added by private-sector employers, signaling real economic growth and not the appearance of such created by government spending programs.

Construction added 33,000 jobs in February, but the bulk of that growth was in the specialty trade contractor category. Residential construction, however, added 2,200 jobs.

Manufacturing employment rose by 33,000 in February, mostly in durable goods industries. Manufacturing has added 195,000 jobs since its most recent trough in December 2009; durable goods manufacturing added 233,000 jobs during this period.

The service added 47,000 jobs inprofessional and business services, with employment services gaining 29,000 jobs and management and technical consulting adding 7,000. Health care employment, which has been growing throughout the recession, continued to increase in February (+34,000). Over the prior 12 months, health care had added 260,000 jobs, or an average of 22,000 jobs per month.

Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 22,000 in February, half in truck transportation (+11,000).

Employment in both state and local government edged down over the month.Local government has lost 377,000 jobs since its peak in September 2008.

The drop in the unemployment rate to 8.9% was characterized as "little changed" from January's 9.0% by the Labor Department but was noted for its value as a psychological marker. As usual, the highest unemployment rate was among the uneducated and low-skilled, with the rate among those lacking a high-school diploma dropping slightly from 14.2% in January to 13.9% in February; among high school graduates, the rate rose from 9.4% to 9.5%.Among those with some college or community college, the rate rell from 8% to 7.8%. The rate for college grads rose from 4.2% to 4.3%.

Both the civilian labor force participation rate, at 64.2 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, were unchanged in February.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was essentially unchanged at 8.3 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. Some 2.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, up from 2.5 million a year earlier (not seasonallyadjusted.) These individuals were had looked for a job sometime in the prior12 months but not in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.