The U.S. added 311,000 jobs in February, topping economist forecasts for 205,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Nonfarm Payrolls report. The unemployment rate rose to 3.6% versus expectations for it to hold steady at 3.4%.
January's blowout job gain of 517,000 was revised lower to 504,000.
Having slumped nearly 8% in the 24 hours prior to Friday morning's jobs numbers, bitcoin (BTC) is bouncing modestly in the immediate aftermath, returning to just above $20,000.
Always widely followed, Friday's jobs report has taken on particular importance given the events of the past few days. First, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell earlier this week suggested the U.S. central bank may need to get more aggressive in tightening monetary policy to fight stubbornly high inflation. Next, on Wednesday evening, crypto-lender Silvergate Bank collapsed.
While the Silvergate failure didn't arouse much concern outside of crypto circles, it was quickly followed by a crash in the stock price of SVB Financial (SIVB), the holding company of tech-friendly lender Silicon Valley Bank (down 60% on Thursday and down another 60% in premarket trading on Friday). The banking sector – as represented by the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) – tumbled 7.3% on Thursday.
The word "contagion" has now quickly re-entered the Wall Street lexicon, with investors wondering if it's not crypto or tech that's the issue but whether the past year's surge in interest rates has left the banking sector sitting on sizable losses in their bond portfolios.
Checking another key metric from February's payrolls report, average hourly earnings were higher by 0.2%, down from 0.4% in January and softer than forecasts for 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis, earnings were up 4.6% versus 4.4% in January.
Despite the rise in the unemployment rate, February's 311,000 job gain (and only a minor downward revision to the January report) is likely to keep the pressure on the Fed to continue hiking rates, which in turn could be a continued headwind for the banking sector and for bitcoin.
CORRECTION (March 10, 2023, 13:43 UTC): Corrects jobs report month to February.
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