Job Growth Grinds to a Halt in February, but the Labor Market Still Looks Strong

March 8, 2019

Nonfarm payrolls increased by just 20,000 last month, falling well short of the 180,000 new jobs that economists had expected. It is also a steep decline from January’s growth, which was revised up to 311,000. February marks the worst month for job creation since September 2017, when two major hurricanes slammed the nation.

There were some bright spots, however. Wages posted their strongest increase since the economic recovery began, growing by 3.4 percent year-over-year. Overall unemployment fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest number in decades. Additionally, the so-called “real” unemployment, which counts discouraged workers who have given up looking for work and those who hold part-time jobs, dropped to 7.3 percent, down from 8.1 in January. Payroll gains averaged 186,000 per month for the last three months. It remains unclear if February’s numbers are an outlier or a sign of an impending slowdown.

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