US jobs report: Economy adds 273K jobs, unemployment at 3.5 percent - New York Post

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The American economy added 273,000 jobs in February, the feds said Friday, indicating strong hiring growth before the coronavirus outbreak slammed the US.

The Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report far outpaced economists’ expectations that non-farm payrolls would grow by 175,000 jobs. The unemployment rate ticked back down to 3.5 percent, matching a 50-year low.

While the latest numbers show the deadly coronavirus epidemic has not yet hammered the labor market, the worst may be yet to come as the outbreak reduces travel, disrupts supply chains and roils the stock market.

The February figures “provide a snapshot of the state of the labor market before the virus-related damage kicks in, presumably starting in March and intensifying into the second quarter,” Bloomberg economists Carl Riccadonna, Yelena Shulyatyeva and Andrew Husby wrote in a Friday commentary.

The virus started to spread in the US late last month and has since killed 14 people and infected more than 200 here. The Federal Reserve suggested the coronavirus could threaten the economy when it cut its benchmark interest rate Tuesday, saying the disease “poses evolving risks to economic activity.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome PowellReuters

Hospitality business drove February’s hiring surge, with food services and drinking places adding 53,000 jobs, the Labor Department said. The health care and social assistance sectors grew by 57,000 jobs combined while construction added 42,000, according to the feds. Average hourly earnings climbed about 0.3 percent to $28.52 an hour last month and have grown 3 percent over the past year, officials said.

The Labor Department also issued upward revisions to jobs numbers from the prior two months that indicated stronger hiring than initially reported. January’s total job growth rose to 273,000 from the previously reported 225,000, while December’s rose by 37,000 jobs to 184,000, the department said.

The numbers are “further confirmation that the US economy was strengthening before the coronavirus really hit,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist for LPL Financial.

But Wall Street shrugged at the robust hiring. Dow futures were down 714.00 points, or 2.7 percent, as of 9:03 a.m., pointing to another opening tumble in a volatile week for stocks.

The bond market, meanwhile, continued to signal a panic over the coronavirus. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note dipped below 0.7 percent Friday morning, a decline that indicates the market is expecting the Fed to cut rates further later this month, according to Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank.

“This could be the last perfect employment report the market gets for some time,” Rupkey wrote in a Friday note. “12 o’clock and all’s well for now, but the market is betting the ranch that it won’t be for long.”

With Post wires


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