Strong U.S. jobs report fails to halt coronavirus sell-off

U.S. data out Friday showed the unemployment rate dropped to a near 50-year-low of 3.5 percent in February and the labor market added 270,000 jobs for the month.

But the upbeat numbers don't fully capture the impact of the coronavirus, which spread in the United States late last month, and the data failed to halt a global market panic about the illness.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion dollar emergency spending bill to ramp up the U.S. response to the outbreak.

He told reporters he thought markets would rebound.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"I think financial markets will bounce back, as soon as, really bounce back. [FLASH] So I think we're in great shape."

But moments later, the Dow Jones dropped more than 700 points at the open, falling nearly three percent.

The outbreak, which has infected over 100,000 globally, has crippled supply chains and prompted a sharp cut to global economic growth forecasts for 2020.

Benchmark indexes in Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo all lost over two percent.

Exchanges in London, Paris and Frankfurt were all off more than two percent.

Friday's jobs report painted a picture of a resilient U.S. economy in the face of global uncertainty.

Layoffs remain low and small business and service sector industries continued hiring at a brisk clip.

The labor market added another 85,000 jobs in December and January than previously reported.

Hourly earnings are up three-tenths of a percentage point, and the average workweek increased slightly.

Economists believe employers are most likely to cut hours for workers initially and proceed to layoffs if the epidemic persists beyond the second half of this year and into 2021.