Disappointing national jobs report: Just 20,000 jobs added in February, far below expectations

More downbeat economic news this morning, continuing a theme. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports nearly flat hiring last month.

Total nonfarm payroll employment changed little in February (+20,000), and the
unemployment rate declined to 3.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Employment in professional and business services, health care, and
wholesale trade continued to trend up, while construction employment decreased.

In anticipation of the BLS release, AP reported

On Friday, the government is expected to report that the economy added 182,000 jobs last month, down from a blockbuster gain of 304,000 in January, according to data provider FactSet.

In baseball, that’s a whiff

At Calculated Risk, Bill McBride points out that the gains are far below what economists expected. (He cites a different prediction than that used by AP.)

This was well below the consensus expectations of 178,000 jobs added, however December and January were up by 12,000 combined.  A weak report.

For those looking for some upbeat news, NFIB reports small business hiring remained strong.

Job creation among small businesses broke the 45-year record in February with a net addition of 0.52 workers per firm, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report, released today. The previous record was in May 1998 at 0.51 workers per firm. The percent of owners citing labor costs as their most important problem also hit an all-time high, with 10 percent of owners reporting labor costs as their biggest problem.

The NFIB numbers are in stark contrast to the ADP report we cited yesterday.

So, again, uncertainty with a heavy downside risk.