KAI RYSSDAL: So what're you supposed to do with today's jobs report if you're Ben Bernanke? Or anybody else, for that matter? The Labor Department reported unemployment in April ticked up a tenth to 4.5 percent. And at same time the number of new jobs created last month grew at the slowest rate in more than two years.
Marketplace's Jeff Tyler tried to figure it out.
JEFF TYLER: Last month, companies added 88,000 jobs to their payrolls.
JARED BERNSTEIN: That's well below recent trends, and it's well below where we need to be to keep the unemployment rate from rising.
That's Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
BERNSTEIN: The slowing we've observed in the overall economy is finally catching up to the labor market.
If the modest job growth continues, he says we're likely to see a gradual increase in unemployment and a decrease in consumer spending. But other analysts are more optimistic.
Diane Swonk is chief economist at Mesirow Financial. While she does anticipate slightly higher unemployment ahead, Swonk also sees some positive signs. She says manufacturing jobs are picking up, and expects automobile production will kick into gear in the second quarter.
DIANE SWONK: So we're seeing some bright spots come to light even as the economy comes out of its darkest hours.
What does this all mean for the Federal Reserve, which meets next week? Swonk says the jobs report shows little sign of inflation, so she anticipates the Fed will leave interest rates unchanged.
But looking further ahead, economist Jared Bernstein expects increased unemployment in the months ahead will eventually prompt the Fed to cut interest rates.
I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.