By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) – The U.S. economy added jobs at a healthy pace in February, which likely allowed the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for longer, although wage inflation showed signs of slowing down.

Non-farm payrolls increased by 311,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department’s jobs report showed on Friday. January’s data has been revised down to show 504,000 jobs added instead of the 517,000 previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast employment growth of 205,000 jobs. According to them, the economy needs to create 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with the growth of the working-age population.

February payroll estimates ranged from 78,000 to 325,000 jobs.

The higher-than-expected rise in payrolls suggests that January’s rebound in hiring was no fluke.

Economists had argued that job growth in January was helped by a number of factors, including unusually warm weather, annual benchmark data revisions and overly generous seasonal adjustment factors.

The strong growth in consumption in January was also partly attributed to seasonal factors. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing in Spanish by Juana Casas)

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