The steady 9.7% unemployment rate is being interpreted on Wall Street as a sign that, as consumer demand stabilizes, businesses will begin hiring new employees again. "The unemployment rate in the U.S. held at 9.7 percent in February and employers cut fewer jobs than anticipated, indicating improvement in the labor market even as East Coast blizzards forced temporary closings of some businesses. Payrolls dropped by 36,000 last month after a revised 26,000 decrease in January, a Labor Department report showed yesterday in Washington. The jobless rate, which has not increased since October, held at 9.7 percent, even as more people entered the workforce. Stocks and the dollar rallied while Treasuries fell as investors reckoned the economy would have added jobs were it not for seasonal snowfall records in cities including Baltimore and Philadelphia. The U.S. needs employment growth to sustain a recovery from a recession that has cost 8.4 million jobs since December 2007. 'The weather effects were enough to transform what would’ve been a positive into a negative,' said David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York, referring to payrolls. 'Job growth is happening as we speak. Companies are seeing a stabilization of demand.'"