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Number of new jobs plunges to 20,000 in February

Hiring took a knock in February as employers added just 20,000 US jobs, the fewest in nearly a year and a half

Trump seems pretty positive about the news, but the markets reacted to the figures poorly, with the Dow Jones falling sharply when it opened an hour after they were published, adding to a losing streak which began at the end of last month.

February’s sharp slowdown in hiring, which may have been worsened by unseasonably cold weather, comes after employers added a blockbuster 311,000 jobs in January, the most in nearly a year.

Businesses stepped up their competition for workers and raised average hourly pay 3.4 percent from a year earlier, the largest gain in a decade.  

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended in January, but uncertainty continued into late February. It wasn’t until the end of the month that Trump signed a bill funding the federal government through the end of the fiscal year.

In mid-February, as the president and Congress continued to duke it out over a spending agreement, Hassett, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said he doesn’t believe ‘slowing that is in some of the indicators’ is ‘really serious thing in the first quarter’ of the year.

‘We’re sticking with our guns. We think we’re going to have another 3 percent year,’ Hassett,  said on CNBC. However, economists outside the administration have not been nearly as optimistic.

‘We had warned that recent employment gains had overstated the underlying strength of the U.S. labor market,’ said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Research in New York. ‘And the correction now came in February with a bang, rather than spread out over various months.’

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