The American economy added a paltry 20,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.8 percent, the government said Friday.
Economists had expected 175,000 nonfarm payroll growth and the unemployment rate to fall to 3.9 percent after rising to 4.0 percent late last year.
January’s job growth was revised up to 311,000 from 304,000 and December was revised up to 227,000 from 220,000.
Until this report, job creation had been a bright spot in the economy, shining even as other parts dimmed. Last year saw more job creation than the previous two years, with 2.6 million new jobs over the course of the year compared with 2.2 million in 2017 and 2.3 million in 2016.F or the full year of 2018, the average monthly gain was 223,000. Since President Trump was elected in November 2016, the U.S. economy has created over 5 million jobs.
Job numbers can be volatile from month to month. Revisions as high as 100,000 jobs, plus or minus, are not uncommon. February’s number is so low and such a deep departure from the prior months that many market watchers expect it will be revised upward.
The broader unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers as well as those employed part-time for economic reasons dropped to 7.3 percent in February from 8.1 percent in January.
Despite the incredibly low job creation number, wages rose at a healthy pace. Average wages improved 0.4 percent for the month and are up 3.4 percent compared with a year ago, the best annual gain in a decade.