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US added only 20,000 jobs last month — fewest since September 2017 (180,000 were expected)

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The numbers may be a sign that after 101 consecutive months of job growth, the economy is running out of available workers. There have been fewer unemployed people than open jobs since June 2018.

It may also be more troubling evidence of a slowdown, which has been showing up in other economic data. Employers have been rocked in recent months by a volatile stock market, uncertain political environment and weakness overseas.



The construction industry lost 31,000 jobs in February, likely due to bad weather. Leisure and hospitality employers added no jobs, after increasing their payrolls by 410,000 over the past year. Manufacturing turned in an anemic month after a year of strong gains. Business and professional services was the one significant category that added jobs.

The brightest spot in February's report was wage growth. Average hourly earnings have been consistently stronger for the last several months, and posted the largest year-over-year percentage gain since 2009, at 3.4%. Some economists worry whether that pace can be sustained.

"The problem is it may be too little, too late. We're now looking for a recession lurking around the corner," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the brokerage Stifel. Also, she said wage gains are concentrated in a few in-demand professions like information technology and accounting. "We're seeing pockets of wage pressure as opposed to broad-based wage gains."


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