The U.S. economy added a modest 97,000 jobs in February, the smallest gain in two years, but job growth in prior months was stronger than first thought and the unemployment rate dropped, the government said on Friday, easing fears over economic weakness.
Adding to a picture of economic resilience, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed slightly more than expected in January to $59.1 billion as U.S. exports hit a record high, a separate report showed.
Addressing the second issue first, the other way to look at the trade deficit improving is that U.S. consumers are buying less. We also, thanks to a weakening dollar, had higher exports - all of which is part of the natural corrective system for economic imbalances such as our trade deficit. But the lower imports certainly jibes with the weak consumer confidence report last week. For some time we have been hearing that the housing woes wouldn’t spread and/or worsen as long as employment remained strong.
So on to the first issue. Is employment strong?
Total employment is still growing, but the rate of growth has slowed to less than 1.5%. What had looked like a possible acceleration in late 2006 now appears to have been a mirage.