Hiring tumbles as United States employers add just 20,000 jobs

Hiring tumbles as United States employers add just 20,000 jobs

US nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 20,000 in February, the Labor Department said Friday, marking the slowest pace for job growth since September 2017, when hurricanes skewed the data, and falling well below economists' expectations for 180,000 new jobs. During the almost decade-long recovery from the Great Recession, job growth has sometimes plunged in a single month - to 15,000 in May 2016, for example, and to 18,000 in September 2017 - only to rebound to healthy levels in the months that followed. Department of Labor researchers opted to not count furloughed employees against the jobs numbers.

The slowdown in hiring was flagged by first-time applications for jobless benefits, which were elevated in February. By contrast, more than 300,000 jobs were added in January. As growth in temporary help was not as weak as growth in overall employment, the temporary staffing penetration rate rose from 2.024% to 2.028% for the month.

The length of the average workweek fell to 34.4 hours last month from 34.5 hours in January.

Healthcare added 21,000 and wholesale trade went up 11,000.

The average hourly wage rose 3.4 percent compared to the same month a year ago, the strongest rise since April 2009.

While optimism among US manufacturers remains high, for example, almost 72 percent of respondents listed hiring as a tob concern. The unemployment drop included a new record low for Hispanic-Americans.

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February's jobs gains were the smallest since September 2017.

Despite the weakness in hiring last month, the unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.8 per cent in February as federal government workers who were temporarily unemployed during a 35-day partial shutdown returned to work.

The labour force participation rate (the share of the population 16 years and older either working or seeking work) remained unchanged from the previous month at 63.2 per cent.

There are signs that the economy is slowing: Consumer confidence fell sharply in January, held back by the shutdown and by a steep fall in stock prices in December. And Americans spent less over the winter holidays, with consumer spending falling in December by the most in five years.

Economist Sung Won Sohn said economic growth is slowing down as the recovery is approaching its 10th anniversary. Economists have been looking for signs that wages are growing more given the low unemployment rate and employers finding it hard to fill positions.

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