U.S. economy adds disappointing 75,000 jobs in May, unemployment rate holds at 3.6%

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The U.S. economy added 75,000 non-farm payrolls in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. This was below expectations for 175,000 non-farm payroll additions, based on Bloomberg-compiled estimates.

The unemployment rate held at a 49-year low of 3.6%, matching consensus estimates. The labor force participation also held at 62.8%.

Average hourly earnings held at 0.2% month-over-month, versus the slight uptick to a 0.3% pace of gains expected. Average hourly wages rose 3.1% over last year, while consensus economists anticipated that rate to hold at 3.2% from April to May.

The latest assessment of the U.S. labor market comes against a backdrop of rising global trade tensions, some softening economic data and speculation that the Federal Reserve is teetering toward a cut to benchmark interest rates. 

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Ahead of Friday’s report, investors were looking for signs that one of the stronger parts of the U.S. economy had held up despite a recent ramp-up in global risks.

Other recent data on the U.S. labor market had been mixed. On Wednesday, ADP Research Institute and Moody’s Analytics reported that the domestic economy added just 27,000 private payrolls in May, coming in sharply below the 185,000 new positions expected and marking the lowest pace of job gains since 2010.

But other surveys have suggested continued strength in the U.S. labor market. The Institute for Supply Management on Wednesday pointed to substantial employment gains in May for the U.S. services sectors. On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported U.S. weekly unemployment claims remained unchanged from the week prior, and the closely watched four-week moving average for initial jobless claims declined.

Moreover, the Conference Board’s labor market differential – an indicator reflecting the percentage of consumers saying jobs are plentiful minus the percent saying jobs are hard to find – rose to 36.3 in May, the highest reading since December 2000.

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