BLS: Job Gains Stumble in February, Unemployment Down to 3.8 Percent

The latest jobs numbers are out from the federal government. What do they mean for job seekers and employers? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain:

This morning’s jobs report revealed the economy stumbled in February, with employers adding just 20,000 new jobs to payrolls, the slowest pace since September 2017. That’s well below most economists expectations, and may be an early sign that slowing global growth, trade tensions, stock market volatility, and the recent federal government shutdown are weighing on the job market.

There was positive news in today’s report as well. The nation’s unemployment rate fell sharply to 3.8 percent, as many furloughed federal employees returned to work in February. The number of Americans working part-time for economic reasons — usually because they can’t find full-time work — plummeted in February by 837,000, a sign that the underlying jobs market remains healthy.

February marked another month of solid wage gains, with average hourly early earnings up 3.4 percent from one year ago — the fastest pace since April 2009, nearly a decade ago. In Glassdoor’s Local Pay Reports, we continue to see pay rising fastest in the nation’s coastal tech hubs, with San Francisco, Seattle and Boston leading among cities for wage gains in February.

Despite weak job gains in February, the nation’s labor force participation rate help steady last month at 63.2 percent. Retiring Baby Boomers and other demographic trends are steadily pushing that figure downward, so even one month of steady labor force participation is a positive sign that workers are rejoining and remaining in the job market.

Among industries, the strongest job gains in February were in professional and business services (which includes many tech roles) with 42,000 jobs added. Other strong job gains were posted in health care (+22,500 jobs) and wholesale trade (+10,900 jobs). Several industries posted big job losses in February, canceling out those gains. Construction lost -31,000 jobs, retail trade lost -6,100 jobs, government shed -5,000 jobs, mining and logging lost -5,000 jobs, and transportation and warehousing lost -3,000 jobs.

Despite this month’s weak jobs report, as of the end of February we’ve had 101 consecutive months of positive job gains—an all-time record since the 1930s. Today’s report may send a warning sign to policymakers, as several goods-producing industries including manufacturing and construction that are dependent on a China trade deal suffered job losses last month—something we may see more of if trade tensions continue this year.

To speak with Dr. Andrew Chamberlain about today’s jobs report or to discuss labor market trends, contact pr at Glassdoor dot com. For the latest economics and labor market updates, follow @adchamberlain on Twitter and subscribe to Glassdoor Economic Research.