Coronavirus fears did not dampen the U.S. job market in February, shattering expectations by adding 273,000 jobs, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.
As the pandemic takes hold across the world, exceeding 100,000 cases, healthcare has become a bright spot in the economy, adding 57,000 jobs.
Estimates for December and January were revised higher by a total of 85,000. December moved up from 147,000 to 184,000, while January went from 225,000 to 273,000. Those revisions brought the three-month average up to a robust 243,000 while the average monthly gain in 2019 was 178,000.
The unemployment rate ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 3.5 percent, the lowest level in more than fifty years. The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.4 percent.
The media and Democrats went into overdrive ginning up coronavirus fears while accusing President Donald Trump of doing a poor job of handling the health crisis. Hysteria over the potential economic fallout has been dogging the stock market.
Economists had only expected approximately 170,000 jobs would be added in February. They expect hiring to slow in the coming months as the spreading virus disrupts the economy.
They credit unseasonably warm weather and resilient consumer confidence with supporting the consistent pace of hiring. The job market added 42,000 construction jobs in February as warm weather helped push forward projects that would have otherwise waited until spring to begin.
Other industries powering the job market were hotels and restaurants which gained nearly 50,000 jobs, professional and technical services which added 32,000 and social services which added 18,000. Manufacturing also gained 15,000 jobs in February after months of contraction.
“Job numbers are incredible,” Trump said Friday, predicting that stocks will bounce back as he signed a $7.8 billion emergency coronavirus spending bill Friday. “The Fed should cut and the Fed should stimulate,” he added.
His top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the virus “looks relatively contained,” in an interview on CNBC Friday morning, urging Americans to “stay at work.”
“I don’t want to panic on the economy and on the virus and on policy measures,” he said. “With common sense, I would say if you are healthy and on the younger side, you should go about your business and not be afraid.”
“Most Americans aren’t at risk,” he said. “Folks should not run around grabbing masks.”
He noted that the travel bans, quarantines, and screenings have been successful in constraining the virus and America does not need to adopt some of the more extreme measures other countries have implemented.
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates Tuesday in the first emergency move since the 2008 financial crisis due to the risk the spreading virus poses to economic activity.
Speaking after the rate-cut announcement, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the fundamentals of the economy remain strong, citing the low unemployment rate, solid pace of job gains and steady wage increases.
He predicted that the labor market would remain strong but employment could be poised for broad disruption should the outbreak spread further throughout the workplace.