KAI RYSSDAL: The economy added 121,000 new jobs last month. Sounds like a lot. But it was kind of so-so, to be honest. Expectations had been for way more. You've heard of ADP? The data company that handles payroll for one out of every six private sector workers in this country? It said earlier this week the jobs number would be close to four times higher. Our New York bureau chief Bob Moon tells us economists are scratching their heads about what it all means.
BOB MOON: It was probably on a day like this that Harry Truman asked for an economist with only one hand. Because, on the one hand, the slowdown in job growth just might warrant a break in nearly two straight years of interest rate hikes. On the other hand, overall wages grew sharply last month, and while you might feel better about getting a big raise, Wall Street fears higher payroll costs could fuel rising prices. And the threat of inflation is the big reason the Fed's been raising rates all along.
Still, job placement expert John Challenger points out we're actually at what's traditionally considered full employment, with just 4.6 percent looking for a job. Challenger says that means workers may need to be a little more prudent in the moves they make, but not fearful:
JOHN CHALLENGER: It doesn't look like there's going to be a sharp decline, this is going to be a slow decline; less job creation, unemployment may start to creep up again over the next year. So it's not a time to not take any chances, but it is a time to be more careful. Especially big expenditures like new housing, because there will be more risk out there.
Sure, there's been lower-than-expect job growth lately, but Roy Krause at the job recruiting firm Spherion remains optimistic because, after all, employment IS still growing:
ROY KRAUSE: I don't think we're going to panic after one or two months. I mean, certainly it's a little slower this quarter than it was the first quarter, but we still think we're on target to have pretty good jobs creation this year.
Of course, you'll find other experts wringing their hands that flaring tensions with Iran and North Korea could always trip up the economy. Those experts, you know, they never seem to run out of hands.
In New York, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.