The U.S. economy created a hefty 273,000 nonfarm jobs in February and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent from January’s 3.6 percent, as the market for workers remained firm despite early stages of the coronavirus scare. Restaurants and bars saw a particularly strong 53,000 job gains.
The bullish report beat analysts’ expectations. Experts had only expected the U.S. economy to add some 175,000 jobs during the month, although they foresaw a 3.5 percent unemployment rate.
“Word that 273,000 jobs were added indicates that the job market was in a good place in mid-February, with many employers managing to forge ahead despite worker shortages in some sectors and regions,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com.
Average hourly earnings also rose 9 cents from January to hit $28.52 and have gained 3 percent over the past year. Among key individual sectors, hourly pay rose to $20.13 for retail workers, up slightly from $20.09 in January and 3.7 percent higher than February 2019’s $19.42. In the leisure and hospitality sector, average hourly earnings hit $16.87, up slightly from January’s $16.82 and up 3 percent from February 2019’s $16.38.
Still, the strong report did little to impress a Wall Street that remains worried about how much the coronavirus will hurt the U.S. and global economies. Stocks resumed their coronavirus-related fall Friday morning (March 6), with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 681.62 points at 25,439.66 shortly after 10 a.m. ET. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield also fell further into record-low territory, dropping 0.244 percent to 0.682 percent.