U.S. services sector growth slows; employment drops: ISM By Reuters


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© Reuters. A woman walks through the financial district of New York City

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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. services sector activity slowed to a more than 3-1/2-year low in March, with industries reporting a moderation in new orders and decline in employment amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the country to sudden stop.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Friday its non-manufacturing activity index fell to a reading of 52.5 last month, the lowest since August 2016, from 57.3 in February.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index dropping to a reading of 44.0 in March.

The smaller-than-expected decline in the non-manufacturing index reflected a jump in the survey’s measure of supplier deliveries to a reading of 62.1 last month from 52.4 in February. A lengthening in suppliers’ delivery time is normally associated with increased activity, which would be a positive contribution. In this case, however, slower supplier deliveries indicate supply shortages rather than stronger demand.

The ISM reported on Wednesday that manufacturing activity contracted in March, with new orders received by factories tumbling to an 11-year low.

Despite the vast services sector still appearing to be growing, although at a moderate pace, economists believe the economy slipped into recession in March, with 10 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks of the month. The vast majority of Americans are now under some form of lockdown as authorities try to control the spread of the virus.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, the private research institute regarded as the arbiter of U.S. recessions, does not define a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real gross domestic product, as is the rule of thumb in many countries. Instead, it looks for a drop in activity, spread across the economy and lasting more than a few months.

The ISM survey’s measure of new orders for the services industry fell to a reading of 52.9 in March, the lowest since August 2016, from 63.1 in February. The survey’s index of services industry employment tumbled to 47.0 last month, the lowest reading since February 2010, from 55.6 in February.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Japan’s factory output growth slows in Feb as virus fallout widens By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a factory at the Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s factory output rose in February at a slower pace than the previous month, adding to growing signs that the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on an economy already on the cusp of recession.

The data underscores the challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces in preventing the virus outbreak from wiping out the benefits his “Abenomics” stimulus policies have brought to the economy.

Factory output rose 0.4% in February, government data showed on Tuesday, slower than the 1.0% gain in January but faster than the 0.1% increase forecast in a Reuters poll.

Manufacturers surveyed by the government expect output to fall 5.3% in March and increase 7.5% in April, the data showed.

Separate data showed retail sales rose 1.7% in February from a year earlier. The jobs-to-applicants ratio fell to 1.45 in February from 1.49 in January, labor ministry data showed, marking the lowest level in nearly three years.

The new virus has infected more than 700,000 people and killed about 35,000 around the world, while disrupting global trade, tourism and supply chains and prompting city lockdowns.

In Japan, a rise in domestic coronavirus cases has stoked worries of tougher social distancing restrictions, while a decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics Games threatens to push the fragile economy into recession.

Abe has pledged a huge stimulus package that would be bigger than one launched during the global financial crisis to cushion the outbreak’s hit to growth.

Japanese automakers like Toyota Motor have announced factory shutdowns across the globe, including at domestic plants, due to slumping demand and supply chain disruptions.

The world’s third-largest economy shrank an annualized 7.1% in the three months through December due to the hit from last year’s sales tax hike and the U.S.-China trade war.

Analysts expect the economy to contract again in the first quarter, meeting the technical definition of a recession.

Japan’s government last week offered its bleakest assessment on the economy in nearly seven years, saying conditions in March were “severe” as the coronavirus pandemic shut down factories and cooled consumption.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Each month of lockdown in major economies to shave two percentage points off growth: OECD By Reuters


© Reuters. OECD’s Secretary General Gurria attends news conference at Chancellery in Berlin

PARIS (Reuters) – Each month major economies spend in lockdown will knock 2 percentage points off annual growth, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Friday.

“Our latest estimates show the lockdown will directly affect sectors amounting to up to one third of GDP in the major economies,” OECD Angel Gurria said in remarks to G20 leaders on Thursday but which were made public on Friday.

“We calculate that, for each month of containment, there will be a loss of 2 percentage points in annual GDP growth. The tourism sector alone faces a decrease in output anywhere between 50% to 70% in this period. Many economies will fall into recession,” he added.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Japan’s February inflation slows, coronavirus puts BOJ’s focus on growth By Reuters


© Reuters. Japan’s February inflation slows, coronavirus puts BOJ’s focus on growth

By Kaori Kaneko

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s annual core consumer inflation eased in February as energy prices fell and the coronavirus outbreak clouded the outlook as consumers grow more cautious about spending, adding to fears the economy could be sliding into recession.

The weak data comes days after the Bank of Japan announced a package of emergency easing measures in a bid to stabilise economic activity and financial markets, as the global shock from the pandemic deepens.

For Japanese policymakers and investors, growth risks have eclipsed the usual fretting over stubbornly weak inflation, which is far from the BOJ’s 2% target.

The core consumer price index, which includes oil products but excludes volatile fresh food prices, grew 0.6% in the year to February, data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed on Thursday.

That pace was slower than an 0.8% rise in January and matched economists’ median estimate for a 0.6% rise.

The so-called core-core price index, which excludes food and energy prices and is closely watched by the central bank as a narrower gauge of inflation, rose 0.6% in February.

Excluding the impact of a sales tax hike to 10% from 8% in October and some other policy steps, the core CPI index rose 0.2% in February on-year and the core-core inflation index was up 0.4%. Both slowed from respective rises on 0.4% and 0.6% in January.

Analysts say the blow from the virus outbreak on businesses and consumers has likely tipped the economy into recession, following a deeper than expected contraction in the fourth quarter.

Supply chains, trade and tourism have been severely disrupted as the virus spreads from China to its Asian neighbours and then the rest of the world.

As new orders collapsed, business surveys showed Japan’s February factory activity contracted at the fastest pace since 2016, while a gauge on services slumped to its weakest in nearly six years.

On Monday, the Bank of Japan said it was ramping up purchases of riskier assets and creating a new programme to ease corporate funding strains, joining other major central banks in efforts to prevent a global recession.

But after years of massive stimulus failed to spur inflation, the BOJ has limited ammunition, apart from cutting interest rates deeper into negative territory.

“Monetary policy cannot be the only game in town,” economists said in a BofA Global Research report earlier this week.

“Given the scale of the shock to business activity, incomes, and therefore spending, the government will need to deliver far more aggressive easing actions to stabilize domestic demand and sentiment.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will form a panel of ministers on Thursday to lay out a package to help the economy weather the hit from the outbreak, the government said on Wednesday.

Japan last week announced a second package of measures worth about $4 billion in spending to cope with the fallout to the economy of the coronavirus outbreak, focusing on support for small and mid-sized firms.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Goldman cuts U.S. growth forecast for first and second quarter due to coronavirus By Reuters


© Reuters. Empty street is seen in Manhattan borough following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc (N:) has downgraded its U.S. growth forecast for the first and second quarters in the wake of the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

In a note sent on Sunday, the U.S. bank said it now sees real gross domestic product growth of 0% in the first three months of the year, from its original estimate of 0.7% expansion. For the second quarter, it sees U.S. growth contracting to -5.0% from its initial forecast of 0%.

Goldman raised its third-quarter U.S. GDP estimate to 3% from 1% originally.

“We expect U.S. economic activity to contract sharply in the remainder of March and throughout April as virus fears lead consumers and businesses to continue to cut back on spending such as travel, entertainment, and restaurant meals,” Goldman said in its latest research note.

Apart from the impact on consumer spending, Goldman said it also revised its growth forecasts as significant supply chain disruptions have grown.

That said, the U.S. bank expects economic activity to recover after April, with strong growth in the second half.

But that expectation, Goldman pointed out, depends on certain factors, such as the extent to which social distancing, or avoiding crowds or gatherings, as well as seasonally higher temperatures will reduce infections as well as whether good treatments will emerge.

Goldman therefore expects higher growth for the fourth quarter of 4%, from its initial estimate of 2.25%, and sees further strong gains in early 2021.

Overall its GDP forecast for 2020 was down to 0.4% from 1.2% originally.

“The uncertainty around all of these numbers is much greater than normal,” the bank said.

(This story corrects Q2 growth forecast to -5.0%, not -0.5%, in second paragraph)

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Rupee Drops Toward Record Low as Virus Scare Worsens Growth Woes By Bloomberg



(Bloomberg) — The Indian rupee slid to near a record low, beset by concerns over the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak and the impact of the seizure of Yes Bank by authorities.

The rupee weakened as much as 1% to 74.3387 per dollar on Thursday to near its record low of 74.4825, a level last seen in October 2018. Sovereign bonds declined.

The rupee has been Asia’s worst-performing currency this month after the seizure of Yes Bank, India’s fourth-largest private lender, by the central bank added to fears fueled by the spread of coronavirus cases in the country. The government late Wednesday suspended most visas in a bid to halt the spread of the virus as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.

India’s action came as U.S. President Donald Trump suspended all travel from Europe, excluding the U.K., and the WHO urged governments to step up containment efforts as the number of worldwide cases topped 124,000 and deaths exceeded 4,600. India currently has 60 confirmed cases.

Traders have been citing attempts by the Reserve Bank of India to smoothen the rupee’s slide in the past few sessions. The central bank is sitting on record forex reserves of $482 billion, thanks to its continued purchases in the currency markets over the past few years.

The plunge in the global price remains a bright spot for the nation’s struggling economy. The price of crude crashed more than 30% on Monday after the disintegration of the OPEC+ alliance triggered an all-out price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that is likely to have sweeping political and economic consequences.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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Philippine central bank ready to support growth amid coronavirus outbreak By Reuters


Philippine central bank ready to support growth amid coronavirus outbreak

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine central bank stands ready to deploy any or all of its policy tools even as it said the fast-spreading coronavirus would not severely cut the country’s growth momentum, its governor said late Friday.

The central bank is widely expected to cut interest rates at its meeting on Thursday and economists believe it will likely ease policy further to cushion the blow of coronavirus on one of Asia’s fastest growing economy.

“The Monetary Board is ready to deploy any or all its policy tools, as appropriate, to address all challenges to our own financial markers and growth prospects,” central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.

The Philippines targets an economic growth of 6.5% to 7.5% this year, but government officials had said the coronavirus outbreak could trim it down to 5.5% to 6.5%.

The central bank lowered the rate on its overnight reverse repurchase facility by 25 basis points to 3.75% in February, the fourth such move since it began reversing policy rate hikes in 2018 to bolster the economy.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



U.S. crude output growth to slow, oil prices to slump By Reuters


© Reuters. U.S. crude output growth to slow, oil prices to slump

By Scott DiSavino and Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. oil production is expected to grow more slowly in 2020 and drop outright in 2021, forecasters said this week after U.S. shale producers cut investment plans further when OPEC and Russia refused to steepen output cuts and prices plunged.

Forecasters and international agencies have warned that demand will grow more slowly due to the global coronavirus outbreak, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) said oil consumption would actually drop in 2020. The disease has been classified as a pandemic, and a Reuters tally showed more than 119,100 people infected around the world, with about 4,300 deaths.

The price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia caused oil prices to fall more than 20% this week.

On Monday, the IEA forecast the first decline in annual demand since 2009, saying the virus outbreak led to a massive, 2.5-million-barrel-per-day contraction for the first quarter. The agency cut its 2020 forecast and said demand would contract by 90,000 bpd from 2019.

(GRAPHIC: Oil demand slumps in first quarter 2020 – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/GLOBAL-OIL/0H001R8FZC9H/index.html)

The sharp downturn in consumption sparked expectations that major oil producers would limit supplies to keep prices afloat and limit fallout from the virus. But Russia refused to support steeper oil output cuts called for by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and instead both former allies said they would raise production.

On Wednesday, OPEC said it believes demand contracted by roughly 1.8 million bpd in the first quarter, mostly due to China, where the coronavirus began.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected lower oil prices would reduce drilling activity this year, causing U.S. production to decline to 12.7 million bpd in 2021.

“This would be the first year-on-year decline in production since 2016,” EIA Administrator Linda Capuano said after the agency released its short-term energy outlook.

On Monday, investment bank Stifel projected the U.S. onshore oil rig count, an indication of future production, will likely drop by around 250 rigs this year. Advisory firm Evercore ISI said that the U.S. rig count will decline more than 25% in 2020.

There were 682 oil rigs active in the United States in the week ended March 6, according to energy services firm Baker Hughes Co (N:). [RIG/U]

Stifel projected U.S. production could fall to 11.1 million bpd in 2021 from an expected 12.6 million bpd in 2020.

(GRAPHIC: production in the price war era https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/GLOBAL-OIL/0H001R8FVC94/index.html)

Major banks also have cut their demand and price forecasts. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) predicted a contraction of 150,000 bpd in global demand, and JBC Energy said coronavirus effects could cut global demand by as much as 500,000 bpd in 2020.

Bank of America (NYSE:) reduced its price forecast to $45 a barrel in 2020 from $54 a barrel.

(GRAPHIC: Oil price forecasts dim after price war begins – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/GLOBAL-OIL/0H001R8FWC97/index.html)

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



WTO says services trade growth slowing as coronavirus strikes By Reuters


© Reuters. WTO says services trade growth slowing as coronavirus strikes

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Growth of global trade in services has weakened at the start of 2020 as the coronavirus hits the global economy, notably air travel and container shipping, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said on Wednesday.

The Geneva-based trade body said its services trade indicator fell to 96.8 from the 98.4 reading reported in September. Readings of less than 100 indicate trade growth below medium-term trends.

The WTO said the new figure did not fully take into account the economic impact of the new coronavirus and could decline further in the coming months.

The largest declines were for passenger transport and shipping, with financial and IT services also below trend, although construction was broadly unchanged.

World services trade growth steadily slipped through 2019 to 2.8% in the third quarter from 4.7% in the first, the WTO said. Global merchandise trade fell by 0.2% year-on-year in the third quarter, the WTO said last month.

The WTO services trade barometer is a composite of data on purchasing manager indices, financial transactions, IT services, passenger flights, container shipping and building permits.

It is designed to identify turning points and gauge momentum in global trade growth rather than to provide a specific short-term forecast.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Robust U.S. job growth reinforces economy’s strength as coronavirus rages By Reuters


© Reuters. Veterans and military personnel discuss job opportunities at a military job fair in Sandy, Utah

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employers maintained a robust pace of hiring in February, giving the economy a strong boost as it confronts the coronavirus outbreak that has stoked financial market fears of a recession and prompted an emergency interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve.

The Labor Department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday also showed solid monthly wage growth and the unemployment rate falling back to near a 50-year low of 3.5%. Employers also increased hours for workers last month.

But the report likely does not fully capture the impact of the coronavirus, which spread in the United States beginning in late February, leaving financial markets and economists anticipating severe economic disruptions in the months ahead. The dollar fell against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury prices were trading higher. U.S. stock index futures fell.

“Sadly, these job numbers are sure to be eclipsed by response to the spread of the coronavirus,” said Michael Hicks an economist at Ball State University. “The supply shocks from quarantined factories in Asia are weeks away from idling U.S. factories, and the demand-side impact on tourism, travel, eating and drinking establishments is already being felt across the world. The March jobs report, will be far less optimistic.”

The Fed on Tuesday slashed its benchmark overnight interest rate by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00% to 1.25%, in the U.S. central bank’s first emergency rate cut since 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the economy’s strong fundamentals, but said “the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity.”

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 273,000 jobs last month, matching January’s tally, which was the largest since May 2018. While transportation and warehousing payrolls fell by 4,000 jobs last month, suggesting some early impact from the coronavirus, the drop was eclipsed by strong gains nearly across all sectors, including government. The economy created 85,000 more jobs in December and January than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 175,000 jobs in February. The economy needs to create roughly 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. Employment gains averaged 243,000 per month in the last three months.

The government canvassed business in mid-February, before the country reported deaths from the virus and rising infections starting in the final week of the month.

At least 12 people have died in the United States from the respiratory disease called COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus and more than 100 have been infected, spread across 19 states. Overall, the fast-spreading disease has killed more than 3,000 people and sickened nearly 100,000, mostly in China.

The highly contagious virus has rattled investors, who have continued to dump risky assets such as stocks despite the Fed rate cut, in favor of safe-haven U.S. government bonds. The has dropped below 1%. Economists say fiscal stimulus is needed to cushion the economy against the disruptions from the coronavirus, though many believe financial market fears of a recession are a bit premature.

WAGES, WORKWEEK INCREASE

Economists believe employers are most likely to cut hours for workers initially and proceed to layoffs if the epidemic persists beyond the second half of this year and into 2021. So far, weekly applications for unemployment benefits, the most timely labor market indicator, were trending low in early March.

Still the virus, which causes a flu-like illness, is expected to slow job growth in the coming months.

Labor market strength was reinforced by steady wage growth. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% in February after gaining 0.2% in January. The annual increase in wages, however, slipped to 3.0% in February from 3.1% in January as last year’s large gain falls out of the calculation.

The average workweek increased to 34.4 hours last month after holding at 34.3 hours for three straight months.

The jobless rate fell to 3.5% last month. It increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.6% in January as more people joined the labor force, in a sign of confidence in the job market. The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one was unchanged at 63.4%, the highest since June 2013.

Construction payrolls increased by 42,000 in February after surging 49,000 in January. Manufacturing employment rebounded by 15,000 jobs after falling 20,000 in January. Manufacturing has been beset by problems ranging from the U.S.-China trade war to Boeing’s BA.N suspension in January of the production of its troubled 737 MAX jetliner.

The drop in transportation and warehousing payrolls last month after increasing by 29,800 jobs in January was likely because of travel restrictions which were enforced by some authorities to curb the spread of the illness.

There have also been reports of declines in shipping container volumes at ports. A report from the Commerce Department on Friday showed the trade deficit dropped 6.7% to $45.3 billion in January as both imports and exports fell. (Full Story)

Government payrolls increased by 45,000 in February, boosted by increases in state government education. About 7,000 temporary workers were hired for the decennial population count.

Payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector surged by 51,000 jobs. Healthcare and social assistance employment increased by 56,500 jobs. There were also increases in hiring in the professional and business services, and financial activities industries. Retail employment, however, fell again in February.