Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON - The jobless rate rose to 4.1% in February as hiring was at its lowest in nine months, the government reported Friday.

The rise from January's 30-year low of 4.0% came as the economy added fewer jobs than expected, 43,000, in February, according to the Labor Department. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3%, compared with 0.4% in January. Analysts had expected a gain of 214,000 jobs, a 0.3% increase in average hourly earnings, and a 4% unemployment rate.

U.S. Treasury securities rose after the report's release, an increase that some analysts said could reduce pressure on the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates - especially since the report showed a big jump in the pool of available workers. Stock futures also rose.

"This does suggest the possibility, not fact, that demand for labor is cooling off," said William Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Boston.

The growth in payrolls was restrained by a drop in construction employment and the slowest growth in the services industry since April 1991, when the number of those jobs fell by 7,000. February services employment rose by 6,000 after a 142,000 increase in January. The construction industry shed 26,000 jobs in February after adding 116,000 a month earlier.

Factories added 5,000 jobs - led by makers of automobiles, industrial machinery, and electrical equipment - after a gain of 21,000 in January.

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