The economy’s remarkably steady job-creation machine sputtered in February and produced a mere 20,000 jobs. It was the smallest gain in well over a year and came on top of other signs that the economy was off to a sluggish start in 2019.

For months, the labor market could be counted on for an upbeat counterpoint to negative developments, including a fragile global economy weighed down by trade tensions. In the United States, growth for the first quarter is expected to dance around the 1 percent bar, as the shot of adrenaline delivered by last year’s tax cuts fades.


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