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US job growth boosts economy amid virus outbreak
US EMPLOYERS maintained a robust pace of hiring in February, giving the economy a strong boost as it confronts the novel coronavirus outbreak that has stoked financial market fears of a recession and prompted an emergency interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve.
The Labour Department's closely watched monthly employment report on Friday also showed solid monthly wage growth and the jobless rate falling back to near a 50-year low of 3.5 per cent. Employers also increased hours for workers last month.
While the upbeat report likely does not fully capture the impact of the virus, which spread in the United States from late February, there are so far no signs that the epidemic has hurt the labour market. Layoff numbers stayed low, and small businesses and services sector industries continued to hire at a solid clip.
Non-farm payrolls increased by 273,000 jobs last month, matching January's tally, which was the largest since May 2018.
While transportation and warehousing payrolls fell by 4,000 jobs last month, showing some early impact from the outbreak, they were more than offset by strong gains nearly across all sectors. The economy created 85,000 more jobs in December and January than previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 175,000 jobs in February. The economy needs to create roughly 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.
The jobless rate fell to 3.5 per cent last month. It increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.6 per cent in January as more people joined the labour force, in a sign of confidence in the job market. REUTERS