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Employment figures weaker than expected

Hillary Wicai Jun 2, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: The country’s unemployment rate hasn’t been this low in five years. This morning, the government said it ticked down in May to 4.6 percent. But — there’s always a “but” isn’t there? — wages grew at a slower pace. And companies didn’t hire nearly as many people as they have been recently. More now from Hillary Wicai.

HILLARY WICAI: The 75,000 new workers added to payrolls last month is almost half of what some economists had expected. The Labor Department says it’s the weakest gain in seven months. Steven Cochran is with MoodysEconomy.com. He says the economy could truly be cooling.

STEVEN COCHRAN: What is interesting is that the employment gains for March and April were also revised down. So all in all this is showing a little bit more weakness over the last few months than we expected.

Cochran says high fuel prices likely prevented employers from hiring as many workers as they thought they would.

But he says Wall Street will welcome today’s news because a slowing economy could soothe inflation fears. That means the US Federal Reserve could pause in its steady hike of interest rates. The Fed’s policy makers have raised rates 16 consecutive times. They’re scheduled to meet again later this month.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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