The latest jobs report is in, and it's a strong one. Employers added 273,000 jobs in February, well above expectations of 175,000, reports the Wall Street Journal. The unemployment rate ticked down from 3.6% to a 50-year low of 3.5%, notes the AP. Both stories, however, point out that the stats came before the coronavirus began dominating headlines in the US in a bad way. So far, there are few signs that the job market has been affected by the disease, but most economists expect hiring to slow in the coming months. Employers facing business slowdowns are in a tough spot, reluctant to lay off workers in a tight job market if the coronavirus passes soon, notes the Journal.
"It’s still extremely difficult to hire," says the owner of a child-care franchise. "With the unemployment rate as low as it is, there are fewer candidates who are available for the positions." As long as monthly job gains remain above 100,000 or so, the unemployment rate should stay low and the economy may be able to avoid a downturn, per the AP. If the monthly pace were to sink below that level for a sustained period, joblessness would likely rise. Other news from the report: Wage growth slowed slightly in February, rising 3% compared with a year earlier, down from a 3.1% annual rate in the prior month. Paychecks have grown at a 3% pace or higher for more than a year and a half but have slowed since reaching 3.5% last summer. (Read more unemployment stories.)