The US job market shows no signs of slowing down.
The Labor Department will publish the February jobs report at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Here are four key things to consider.
1. A new 17-year low for unemployment? Economists project the unemployment rate dropped to 4% in February, which would be the lowest since December 2000. The rate has been ticking down since 2009, when it peaked at 10%. Experts also forecast 200,000 jobs were added in February, which would mirror the gains from January. Wages are expected to rise about 2.8% compared with a year earlier, a shade lower than the 2.9% growth in January.
2. Trade war fears — and potential job losses — loom over the good news: President Trump signed an order Thursday imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum from almost all countries. The tariffs officially go into effect in 15 days, but Trump’s announcement was met with a swift backlash from Republicans on Capitol Hill, foreign leaders and many business advocates. Some economists estimate tens of thousands of job losses as a result of the tariffs.
3. If wage growth hits 3%, will markets go nuts again? Stocks went on a wild ride last month after the jobs report showed the fastest US wage growth since 2009. It stoked concerns about rising inflation and interest rates in the United States. The Dow fell 666 points the day of the January report. If wages surprise investors again, markets could face a rocky road.
4. The streak that’s expected to stay alive: The US economy has added jobs every month for more than seven years. The streak stands at 88 months, the longest on record, according to Labor Department statistics that go back to the 1940s. February would be the 89th month. Overall, the US economy is in its third-longest expansion in history, surpassed only by periods of growth in the 1960s and 1990s.