WASHINGTON — The Labor Department released a shocking jobs report on Friday revealing the U.S. economy added just 20,000 jobs in February — far fewer than analysts’ prediction of 180,000 new jobs and sparking fears of an impending economic slowdown.
But the report was not all bad news: The unemployment rate fell slightly in February to 3.8 percent compared to a 4 percent drop in January, and earnings rose 3.4 percent compared to a year ago. The drop in the unemployment rate partially reflected the return to work of federal employees who had been furloughed during the partial government shutdown, the Labor Department said.
February’s jobs gains were the smallest since September 2017. January’s revised numbers showed an increase of 311,000, while December’s revised report reflected a gain of 227,000 jobs.
President Donald Trump seemed to take the jobs report in stride. He retweeted a Fox Business anchor’s praise of the economy.
“This is as good a time as I can remember to be an American Worker. We have the strongest economy in the world.” Stuart Varney @foxandfriends So true!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
He also touted the drop in the jobless rate for women. “Women’s unemployment rate is down to 3.6% – was 7.9% in January, 2011. Things are looking good!’ he tweeted this morning.
Addressing reporters outside the White House later, Trump said the number of new jobs “averages out” with the report’s positive information.
“I think you’ll probably find out it averages out. The unemployment rate just went lower. We’re down now to 3.8 percent, so we had very good news on that,” Trump said before leaving for Alabama. “I think the big news, really, was that wages went up. And that’s great for the American worker.”
Average earnings in February were 3.4 percent grew to $27.66 per hour, a respectable gain compared to January’s increase of 3.1 percent from a year ago. Economists have been projecting that wages would increase as employers jockey to hire employees.
Professional and business services added 42,000 jobs, while health care grew by 21,000. Manufacturing gained just 4,000 jobs — far fewer than the 21,000 that were added in January.
The retail sector lost more than 6,000 jobs, and transportation jobs fell by 3,000.
Leisure and hospitality jobs were stagnant in February after growing a combined 154,000 in the two previous months.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average appeared to react negatively to the jobs report. The index had fallen 147.77 to 25,326.36 as of 12:38 a.m. EST.