US jobs report crushes expectations, wage growth slows

The US economy added 313,000 jobs in February, many more than economists had expected, according to a report from the Bureau of Labour statistics released Friday. Wage growth slowed.

The labour-force participation rate increased by the most in eight years to 63%, confirming that many more working-age Americans are still out of employment. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1%, the lowest since December 2000, yet a broader measure that includes people who work part-time but want full-time jobs was higher, at 8.2%.

Most of the job gains last month were in the construction and retail sectors.

Economists had estimated the economy gained 205,000 nonfarm payrolls in February and the unemployment rate fell to 4%, the lowest since July 2000, according to Bloomberg.

The focus of this report was wage growth. Average hourly earnings increased by 0.1% month-on-month, and 2.6% year-on-year.

In January, average hourly earnings were initially reported at a year-on-year pace that had not been seen since the Great Recession. The 2.9% pace of growth was revised down to 2.8%, showing that wages picked up – but not as quickly as initially thought. Still, dozens of companies have recently indicated on their earnings calls that they’re under pressure to raise wages.

The pickup in wage growth last month helped trigger the stock market’s first 10%-plus drop in two years, as investors became concerned that a heating economy would prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than expected.

More to come …