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Professional and business services added to a hot streak of strong employment gains, but big losses in the construction industry threw cold water on the February jobs report, the worst month for job growth since September 2017.
CNBC studied the net changes by industry for February jobs based on the data from the Labor Department included in the jobs report released Friday. The government said the U.S. economy added just 20,000 jobs last month, far short of the 180,000 increase expected by economists polled by Refinitiv.
The construction industry posted a net loss of 31,000 jobs in February, with declines of 13,000 jobs in both civil engineering and specialty trade contractors. Building construction also posted minor losses as economists theorized that poor winter weather could have contributed to the jobs shortfall.
To be sure, the construction industry has been one of the strongest in terms of job growth in recent years and is often affected by seasonal climate patterns. Even including February's losses, the sector is up 223,000 jobs in the past 12 months.
"The best we can guess it probably has something to do with weather," said Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America.
"You know there was snow in Los Angeles ... but [the losses] just don't seem to sync up with what we're seeing," he added, citing reports of labor shortages flagged by employers.
The manufacturing industry, a priority for President Donald Trump, saw more muted hiring in February after a similarly anemic January. The sector added 4,000 jobs last month versus January's gain of 13,000 and December's 32,000. Manufacturing jobs are up an average of 22,000 per month over the last 12 months.
The only sector with significant job outperformance was professional and business services, which added 42,000 positions in the month of February. The sector, which includes lawyers, accountants and consultants, is up more than 530,000 jobs in the past year.