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10 March 2019, 11:00 | Joann Bryant
USA 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.
A report on Thursday showed labour costs rising only 1.4 per cent in 2018, the smallest gain since 2016, after increasing 2.2 per cent in 2017.
Job numbers can be volatile week to week.
The sluggish hiring and job cuts in February were widespread across industries.
Job gain occurred in education and health services (+500), leisure and hospitality (+300), natural resources, mining, and construction (+100), trade, transportation and utilities (+100), and other services (+100), the department noted. Data for January showed the USA economy added 304,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate increased to 4 percent, generally recognized as the benchmark for full employment. Over the year, average hourly earnings rose by 3.4 percent - the largest year-over-year percentage gain since 2009.
While optimism among US manufacturers remains high, for example, almost 72 percent of respondents listed hiring as a tob concern. They returned to work and were counted as unemployed in February.
Yet others pointed to the long-term trend - a record 101 consecutive months of positive job-creation numbers - as a better indication of the direction of the economy. The longest shutdown in United States history ended on January 25. Turning to the household survey, the strong number was labor force participation at 63.2 percent, the highest since September 2013. These are signs that consumers and businesses are gaining confidence in the economy and the situation is not as alarming as it sounds. And Americans spent less over the winter holidays, with consumer spending plunging in December by the most in five years.
Analysts generally foresee growth slowing sharply in the first three months of this year to just a 1 percent annual rate, down from a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December quarter.
The wage gains reflect a tightening labor market that is making it more hard for employers to find skilled workers and forcing companies to pay more to attract talent.
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