The U.S. unemployment rate reported Friday surprised economists, dropping to 7.7% for February from 7.9% in January. However, labor force participation remained unchanged at 58.6%, just 0.4 percentage points above the post-recession low and well below the 20-year average of about 66%. "This shows the depth of the recent employment recession -- worse than any other post-war recession -- and the relatively slow recovery due to the lingering effects of the housing bust and financial crisis," wrote Bill McBride of Calculated Risk.

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