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Signs of U.S. economic weakness mount

A job seeker fills out an employment application at a job fair in Los Angeles.

Tess Vigeland: So if you thought the economy was on the mend, the numbers had another idea today. The service sector grew slowly in April and private payrolls rose less than expected. More signs that the recovery is still in start-and-stop mode.

But as Marketplace's Alisa Roth tells us, some smart observers think today's headlines are just a few more small bumps in the road.


Alisa Roth: ADP, which is a payroll processing company, says the economy only added 179,000 private sector jobs in April -- that's about 19,000 fewer than analysts were predicting.

The disappointing job numbers dovetail with a report from a group that tracks non-manufacturing activity in the U.S. economy. The Institute for Supply Management says the service sector grew at its slowest rate since last summer.

Together, the two reports suggest the economy and the recovery are still weak.

Stuart Hoffman: The higher gasoline prices seem to have knocked back consumer confidence and probably did take a bite out of consumer spending.

Stuart Hoffman is chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. He says bad weather caused slow growth in the first quarter, and it did again in April.

Hoffman: Certainly the tornadoes are going to mess up some of the data we've seen in the latter part of April. Housing is perennially weak.

He says these bumps are serious. But they don't pose a long-term threat to growth.

Beth Ann Bovino is a senior economist at Standard & Poors. She says this recovery is taking longer than usual. In the first year after a recession, growth has been more like 5 percent. In 2010, it was around 3 percent. And she thinks we're looking at the same for this year.

Beth Ann Bovino: We had been saying overall that this was a half-speed recovery. It's just going to be a little bit slower than even that half-speed.

She doesn't think the recovery has been derailed, though. If the U.S. can keep growing 3 percent for a few more years, we'll be OK.

We'll get a better idea of how the employment picture is progressing Friday, when the government reports its April jobs numbers.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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The US has lost jobs to (1) relentless productivity advances and (2) deliberate offshoring of critical work. The corporations have not shared in the increased profits for the past 15 years. Wall St provided the money for infinite mergers and downsizings, which accompanied by productivity gains and offshoring reaped great profits. The financial and corporate people are conducting a Capital Strike, withholding money from the US. Now we confront the possibility that losses of jobs will be permanent, coupled with the annual gain of new populations of employable people. The so called markets will not resolve this situation. Wall St and the corporations do not care what happens to Main Street and are conducting unrelenting class warfare on the citizens of the US. The Elite have beome "internationalists" and divorced themselves and their money from the US. Corporations have taken over the legislatures, including the Congress. Expect this situation to grow really desperate for the hoi polloi before it is over with the possibility of near starvation under the current regime. Does that sound pessimistic, no it is optimistic. And now we expect 10 billion people by 2020 to live in a totally despoiled environment. At this point I suspect the only alternative is Facistic Dictatorship.

"Beth Ann Bovino is a senior economist at Standard & Poors. She says this recovery is taking longer than usual." I'm not sure if I missed something over the past two years, but it seems we have had a pretty unusual economic event, so recovery "longer than usual" should be expected, right?

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