The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 273,000 jobs last month -- well above the 175,000 forecast by Refinitiv economists -- as unemployment returned to a half-century low.
“This is far and away the hottest job number we’ve seen in the past twelve months and in normal conditions this would be a welcomed proofpoint of a US economy on strong footing,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of E-Trade. “But truth be told, take this number with a massive grain of salt as it doesn’t reflect any potential impact from the spreading virus.”
Gains took place across the board. Education and health services led the way, with 54,000 positions added last month. Health care, which continues to serve as a powerhouse in the labor market, accounted for 32,000, boosted by physicians (10,000), home health care services (10,000) and hospitals (8,000). Food services and drinking places also boosted the payroll number by 53,000, following a lull in job growth earlier in 2019.
Leisure and hospitality, which has benefited from an unseasonably warm winter, accounted for the second-highest amount, with 51,000 positions added last month. Government padded the number with 45,000 created.
Construction, another weather-sensitive sector, added 42,000 jobs, following a similar gain in January, and professional and business services increased by 41,000.
In fifth was financial activities, with 26,000 added, and manufacturing, with 15,000. Information and mining and logging each added 4,000 jobs, for a collective 8,000.
Still, it wasn’t all good news: Transportation and warehousing lost 4,000 jobs. Trades, transportation and utilities also lost a combined 13,000.