Hiring Drops As US Employers Add Only 20,000 Jobs

A bilingual help wanted sign for Auto Zone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, is posted outside the store in Canton, Miss., Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. The central Mississippi city has a growing Spanish-speaking population and some merchants are actively recruiting bilingual counter help. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
FILE- In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo a bilingual help wanted sign for Auto Zone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, is posted outside the store in Canton, Miss. Another healthy picture of... FILE- In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo a bilingual help wanted sign for Auto Zone, a retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, is posted outside the store in Canton, Miss. Another healthy picture of hiring is expected when the U.S. government issues its September jobs report Friday, Oct. 5. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) MORE LESS
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March 8, 2019 8:38 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hiring tumbled in February as U.S. employers added just 20,000 jobs, the fewest in nearly a year and a half.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent. 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 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. In the past three months, job gains have averaged 186,000.

Still, the pullback comes amid signs that growth is slowing because of a weaker global economy, a trade war between the United States and China, and signs of caution among consumers.

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