Contradictory Signals

By Isaac Cohen*

The job market in the United States, in February, delivered contradictory signals, because there was weak job creation with strong wage growth and less unemployment. Job creation started the year vigorously, with 311,000 new jobs created in January, but in February this indicator fell to only 20,000, the lowest since September 2017. In sharp contrast, the good news was hourly wages increased 3.4 percent from a year earlier, the best performance in a decade. Additionally, the unemployment rate decreased to 3.8 percent, from 4 percent.

Although one month figures cannot be seen as indicative of a trend, there is concern because economic growth projections for this quarter, for instance by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, do not reach 1 percent, after almost 3 percent growth registered last year.

The February slowdown in hiring stood out in different sectors. In construction there were 33,000 less jobs, after an increase of 53,000 in January. Retail lost 6,100 jobs, while government hiring decreased by 5,000 jobs.

Several factors contributed to the slowdown in job creation. Some of them were seasonal, such as the weather which hurts construction activity. Others were self inflicted, such as the government shutdown, or the trade confrontation with China and other partners. Tariff increases, used as bargaining chips, are hurting exporters of agricultural products and consumers of steel and aluminum.

*International analyst and consultant, former Director ECLAC Washington. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio, UNIVISION, TELEMUNDO and other media.

About Ramón Jiménez

Ramón Jiménez, Managing Editor de MetroLatinoUSA.Com (MLN). Graduado de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad del Distrito de Columbia (UDC). Email: [email protected]

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