Updated Mar 8, 2019 - Economy

U.S. adds just 20,000 jobs in February

Source: Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pace of jobs growth slowed significantly in February with the economy adding 20,000 jobs, less than the 180,000 expected, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.8% and wages rose 3.4% from the prior year — the best pace in a decade.

Between the lines: After an average gain of 186,000 jobs per month in the last 3 months, a pullback from that breakneck pace has been widely expected. Economists, though, are questioning whether or not February's dismal job growth was a blip, or the beginning of trouble for the booming labor market.

The details:

  • The number of people in the labor force remained steady, with the labor force participation rate holding at 63%.
  • Construction employment fell off a cliff, losing 31,000 jobs in February — the biggest drop in 6 years.
  • December job gains were revised up from 222,000 to 227,000, while January was revised up to 311,000 from 304,000 .

What to watch: What this all means for the Fed that's all but written off more interest rate increases this year. As the New York Times' Neil Irwin points out: "This is an awfully uncomfortable report for the Fed. Strong wage growth + falling unemployment rate + slowing job growth is tough mix."

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