US construction workerImage copyright Getty Images

US jobs grew at their slowest rate for a year-and-a-half in February, coming in well below forecasts.

Just 20,000 new jobs were created in February against expectations of a 180,000 increase, official figures show.

It is the slowest growth in non-farm payrolls since September 2017 when employment was impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The construction sector saw a sharp 31,000 fall in new jobs last month.

Despite the extremely weak jobs growth in February, the unemployment rate fell, dropping to 3.8%, from 4% in January.

Average weekly wages also increased, rising by 3.4% to $27.66.

New job numbers for January were also revised higher to 311,000 from 304,000.

The unexpectedly weak job figures are likely to raise fears about slowing economic growth and will support the Federal Reserve’s decision not to raise interest rates anytime soon.

Kully Samra, vice President at Charles Schwab, said despite the disappointment for February “the outlook for the US economy remains strong relative to the rest of the world”.

“The question is whether businesses are becoming more cautious because of weaker economic data and the return of volatility; or is the economy weakening a result of reduced business confidence?,” he added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Federal employees returned to work in February after the government shutdown in January

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics also showed that the number of people ending part-time jobs or on temporary leave dropped by 225,000.

It said: “This decline reflects, in part, the return of federal workers who were furloughed in January due to the partial government shutdown.”

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