February 2020 Jobs Report: A Solid Foundation Going Into the Unknown
The US economy added 273,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is at 3.5%, down from 3.6% in January.
As fears of the coronavirus ramp up, today’s report reassured that the labor market has been in a strong position heading into the unknown. Employment growth remains strong with both low unemployment and high rates of employment.
Employment growth not only was stronger than expected, but the pickup in February was spread broadly across the labor market. Growth picked up in goods-producing industries, which have been weakening of late, and in the service sector industries, which continue to rise. Many of these industries, such as leisure and hospitality, are among those most likely to be affected by the coronavirus and related fears. This forward momentum could help these industries weather this shock, but also raises the possibility that job growth may slow significantly if the impact of the virus hits these industries hard.
While it’s too early to see the impact of the coronavirus on the labor market, we can say the labor market was in a good place before the virus began to spread. But the next few months will be a test of just how resilient this labor market is.
Nick Bunker is the Economic Research Director for North America at the Indeed Hiring Lab who focuses on the U.S. labor market. He was previously a Senior Policy Analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, an economics think tank. Prior to that, Nick was a Research Assistant at the Center for American Progress. He holds a B.S.F.S. in international economics from Georgetown University.