WASHINGTON • Job creation ground to a virtual halt in the United States last month as employers in a range of industries began to shed workers-but the unemployment rate fell, the US government said yesterday.
US employers added just 20,000 net new positions for the month, a fraction of what economists had expected.
The jobless rate fell two-tenths to 3.8 per cent, its lowest since October, according to the Labour Department.
Hourly wages saw their biggest gains in nearly a decade, more evidence of the tight labour market. Average hourly earnings rose a better-than-projected 3.4 per cent from a year earlier.
The big miss on payrolls may fuel concern about consumers following December's retail slump, the US' worst in nine years.
Some of the weakness could be chalked up to winter weather, as construction jobs fell by 31,000. But other sectors stayed soft, including education and health services as well as leisure and hospitality.
Manufacturing payrolls were up by 4,000, trailing the 12,000 median forecast. Retail jobs fell by 6,100, while education and health services posted a meagre gain of 4,000. Leisure and hospitality payrolls were unchanged.
Professional and business services chalked up a 42,000 increase. The labour force participation rate was unchanged at a five-year high of 63.2 per cent, while the employment-population ratio held at 60.7 per cent.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG