US February job growth weakest in nearly 1-1/2 years

Irving Hamilton
March 10, 2019

In February, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.3 million and accounted for 20.4% of the unemployed. This decline reflects, in part, the return of federal workers who were furloughed in January due to the partial government shutdown.

Thus, we have in the February report a labor market that has regularly beaten expectations in the preceding months, with some methodological dynamics at play as well. The leisure and hospitality sector added no jobs after payrolls increased by 89,000 in January.

The unemployment rate fell back to below 4 percent and a wider measure of underemployment fell by the most ever.

At the same time, policymakers and economists might wait for several months of weak hiring before concluding there is cause for concern in the labour market. Over the year, average hourly earnings rose by 3.4 percent - the largest year-over-year percentage gain since 2009.

It supports the Federal Reserve's "patient" approach toward further interest rate increases this year.

February's meager gain in non-farm payrolls is offset by an outsized increase in January, a number that was revised upward in this report, to 311,000, from a first estimate of 304,000. Wages grew by 3.4 percent past year, the largest gain since 2009.

The prime-age (25-54) labor force participation rate is still up 0.4 points over the past year, which has helped to arrest the downward trend in unemployment even as job growth has been robust.

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

Job creation ground to a virtual halt in the United States last month as employers in a range of industries began to shed workers-but the unemployment rate fell, the U.S. government said yesterday.

CT had 0.6 percent job growth in 2018, up from 0.1 percent in 2017 and 0.2 percent in 2016, Gioia said.

"Weakness in capex and exports, much of it tied to knock-on effects from the tariffs and trade-war confusion generally, are likely behind the slowdown in hiring by the manufacturing sector", said Steve Blitz, chief USA economist at TS Lombard in NY.

Leading job declines during the month were professional and business services with a loss of 2,200 jobs, down 1 percent, for a total of 217,300 jobs. Over the year, Education and Health Services gained 9,800 (+1.2%) jobs.

Retailers cut 6,100 positions, while jobs in a category that mostly includes restaurants and hotels were unchanged.

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