WASHINGTON (AP) — Hiring tumbled in February as U.S. employers added just 20,000 jobs, the fewest in nearly a year and a half.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent. Businesses stepped up their competition for workers and raised average hourly pay 3.4 percent from a year earlier, the largest gain in a decade.

The sharp slowdown in hiring, which may have been worsened by unseasonably cold weather, comes after employers added a blockbuster 311,000 jobs in January, the most in nearly a year. In the past three months, job gains have averaged 186,000.

Still, the pullback comes amid signs that growth is slowing because of a weaker global economy, a trade war between the United States and China, and signs of caution among consumers.

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