Updated Mar 8, 2019

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

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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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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that the novel coronavirus pandemic could worsen if people fail to take the appropriate containment measures, at a Saturday news conference in Tokyo.

The big picture: The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, as the number of global cases nears 620,000. Governments around the world are trying to curb the medical and financial fallout of COVID-19, as infections surge across Europe and the U.S.

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 618,043 — Total deaths: 28,823 — Total recoveries: 135,736.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 104,865 — Total deaths: 1,709 — Total recoveries: 894.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump signed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to provide businesses and U.S. workers economic relief.
  4. State updates: A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter. Alaska is latest state to issue stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month.
  5. World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the country's deadliest day. In Spain, over 1,300 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. Business latest: President Trump authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to direct General Motors to build ventilators for those affected by COVID-19. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been appointed to enforce the act.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancing.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

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