US labour data fails to do the job

Top Stories

US labour data fails to do the job
Manufacturing payrolls will be watched closely for signs of any fallout from the trade tensions.

Reuters - Economy, however, has thus far been largely resilient to trade war with China

By Reuters

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Fri 7 Jun 2019, 9:27 PM

Last updated: Fri 7 Jun 2019, 11:29 PM

US job growth slowed sharply in May and wages rose less than expected, raising fears that a loss of momentum in economic activity could be spreading to the labour market, which could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates this year.
The broad cool-off in hiring reported by the Labor Department on Friday was even before a recent escalation in trade tensions between the United States and two of its major trading partners, China and Mexico. Analysts have warned the trade fights could undermine the economy, which will celebrate 10 years of expansion next month, the longest on record.
The economy thus far has been largely resilient to the trade war with China. President Donald Trump in early May slapped additional tariffs of up to 25 per cent on $200 billion of Chinese goods, which prompted retaliation by Beijing.
Last week, Trump said he would impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico in a bid to force authorities in that country to stop immigrants from Central America from crossing the border into the United States. Talks are ongoing to prevent the duties from kicking in at 5 per cent on June 10.
Fed chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday the central bank was closely monitoring the implications of the trade tensions on the economy and would "act as appropriate to sustain the expansion."
"This report, combined with nerves around tariffs, will be enough to force a rate cut from the Fed in either June or July," said Curt Long, chief economist with the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 75,000 jobs last month, the government said in its closely-watched employment report, falling below the roughly 100,000 needed per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. Adding a sting to the report, the economy created 75,000 fewer jobs in March and April than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising by 185,000 jobs last month. May's disappointing job growth was flagged by a report on Wednesday from payrolls processing firm ADP showing the smallest gain in private payrolls in nine years last month.
Another report this week showed a drop in online ads by businesses looking for help.
Worker shortages
Last month's slowdown in job gains, however, probably understates the health of the labor market as measures such as weekly applications for unemployment benefits and the Institute for Supply Management's services employment gauge have suggested underlying strength.
Some of the weakness in hiring last month could be the result worker shortages, especially in the construction, transportation and manufacturing sectors.
Monthly wage growth remained moderate in May, with average hourly earnings increasing six cents, or 0.2 per cent following a similar gain in April. That lowered the annual increase in wages to 3.1 per cent from 3.2 per cent in April. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.4 hours last month. The moderation in wage gains, if sustained, could cast doubts on the Fed's optimism that inflation would return to the US central bank's 2 per cent target. The unemployment rate remained near a 50-year low of 3.6 per cent in May.
A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.1 per cent last month, the lowest since December 2000.
The labour force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, was unchanged at 62.8 per cent last month. Hiring slowed across all sectors in May. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 3,000 last month, after gaining 5,000 positions in April. The sector is struggling with an inventory overhang that has resulted in businesses placing fewer orders at factories.
Manufacturing payrolls will be watched closely for signs of any fallout from the trade tensions. Factory output has weakened and sentiment dropped to a 31-month low in May, with manufacturers worried mostly about the trade tensions.
Employers in the construction sector hired 4,000 workers in May after adding 30,000 jobs to payrolls in April. Leisure and hospitality sector payrolls increased by 26,000 jobs last month.
Professional and business services employment rose by 33,000. Transportation and warehousing payrolls fell as did retail employment. Government shed 15,000 jobs, the most since January 2018.
Better in Canada
Meanwhile, Canada added a higher-than-expected 27,700 net new jobs in May, which followed a record gain of 106,500 positions in April, and the unemployment rate dipped to a record low of 5.4 per cent, official data showed.
"The labour market looks like it is holding up, so I think they [the Bank of Canada] are very comfortable with policy rates where they are," said Andrew Kelvin, chief Canada strategist at TD Securities.
"The bank has, I think, signalled with a fair bit of conviction that they are very comfortable with the Canadian outlook."
That helped boost the Canadian dollar to a seven-month high against the greenback. At 1332GMT, the loonie was trading 0.5 per cent higher at 1.3295 to the greenback, or 75.22 US cents.

More news from