The employment backdrop in the U.S. in February remained generally favorable, but the downward trend in manufacturing continued.

The Labor Department said Friday that nonfarm payrolls grew by 97,000 last month, pretty much in line with what economists were expecting. The nation's unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent, and payrolls were revised higher in both January and December.

The scene within manufacturing wasn't as encouraging. Manufacturing employment fell by 14,000, with job losses in wood products (-4,000), semiconductors and electronic components (-3,000), and textile mills (-3,000). Machinery added 5,000 jobs in February.

In mining, employment rose by 4,000.

In the goods-producing sector, construction employment fell by 62,000 in February after posting a gain of 28,000 in January. The government said unusually severe winter weather conditions in some areas of the country in February likely contributed to job losses in the industry.  Employment declined in both residential (-21,000) and nonresidential (-25,000) specialty trades, and heavy construction lost 10,000 jobs.  Employment in residential specialty trades has been declining since February 2006.

Service-sector employment, however, increased by 168,000.

Average hourly earnings rose by 6 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $17.16, a 4.1-percent increase from a year earlier.

Separately, the Commerce Department said the trade deficit was reined in a bit in January, with exports hitting an an all-time high and imports dropping.

Commerce said the deficit fell to $59.1 billion, down 3.8 percent from December's $61.5 billion. The U.S deficit with China, however, rose by 12 percent, to $21.3 billion.