The invasion of Ukraine is weighing not only on our financial markets, but also on our hearts. Given the catastrophe we are all watching unravel before our eyes, there is simply nothing to feel good about. If there is a positive aspect to the crisis, it is witnessing the international community rally around and support the Ukrainian people. While there seems to be little we can do from afar, the positive messaging and solidarity surrounding their predicament appears to be a rallying point for the international community. Something we desperately need to see in these trying times. While we all have diverse political, religious, and personal convictions, witnessing innocent families suffer in their own backyards goes beyond simple power and selfish goals. Those are topics on which I believe we can all agree upon. Personally, I believe that paying a little more at the local gas station today to preserve the freedom we all enjoy is the least we can do to show our support.
Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, spoke at length during his Senate confirmation hearings this week on the state of the economy. One of the most common questions he was asked concerned the Federal Reserve's plan for bringing inflation under control. He maintained his belief that a quarter-point hike in short-term rates at the next Federal Reserve Meeting would be the appropriate next step. While this gave the broader markets a boost midweek, the uncertainty abroad kept any meaningful rally at bay. It was encouraging to learn that, despite a healthy labor market and higher-than-average inflation, the path to regaining some control remains intact and measured. The markets, as we all know, prefer and desire clarity, and it appears that Chairman Powell went out of his way to ensure that a comprehensive and well-thought-out plan is in place. We will start to see how this picture unfolds in the weeks ahead.
The robust employment data released this morning indicated a strong jobs report for February, as well as a slightly lower unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, versus 3.9 percent projected. This was heartening news for everyone. The leisure and hospitality industries accounted for the majority of the robust figures, reinforcing many people's desires to get back to normal. With the arrival of spring and better weather, COVID worries are dissipating, and more individuals are stepping out and "forward." For many, it's been a long two years in a cocoon, so the promise of more freedom and flexibility ahead is welcome. One interesting thing to note is that the data for February also showed that wages barely rose month over month. The year-over year increase was 5.13%, well below the 5.8% estimates that had been projected. Perhaps inflation is beginning to cool slightly on its own. We shall watch and see.
These are difficult times in many ways for all of us. If the last two-years has taught us anything it has to be empathy and respect for one another. We each fight our own struggles in some shape or form and perspective is a powerful tool. I am thankful for this country, the United States, a democracy, and a place we are fortunate enough to call our home. We have much to appreciate in our own backyards. The small sacrifices we may have to make in the weeks ahead pale in comparison to our neighbors abroad. I will be keeping them in my thoughts and prayers.
Have a nice weekend.