Employers added a weaker-than-expected 160,000 jobs in April, the lowest in seven months, after a healthy streak of gains that had defied slower economic growth.

The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, around an eight-year low, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

Economists had forecast around 200,000 jobs in April, but a shaky start to the year across global financial markets may have weighed on gains into the spring. The slower pace of growth could raise questions about the long-term health of the economy and is likely to become a hot topic in the race for the White House.

{mosads}Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that the “this disappointing jobs report shows this is a hollow recovery that has left too many Americans behind.”

“Eight years of liberal Democrat policies have failed to produce prosperity for middle class families,” he said. “We need a Republican president in the White House who will grow opportunity for every American and get our economy back to full strength.”

In a news conference, President Obama urged Congress to invest in infrastructure, raise the minimum wage, pass trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and reform the tax code. 

“Here in the United States there are folks out there who are still hurting,” Obama told reporters. “So we’ve got to do everything we can to strengthen the good trends and guard against some dangerous trends in the global economy. 

“If the Republican Congress joins us to take some steps that are pretty common sense then we could put some additional wind at the backs of working Americans.”

Jason Furman, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, emphasized that businesses have added 14.6 million jobs over 74 straight months of job growth under President Obama.

“The longest streak of private-sector job growth on record continued in April, with businesses adding 171,000 jobs, well above the pace necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate,” Furman said.

Numbers from February and March were revised down by 19,000, although each month remained above a healthy 200,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings for private employees have increased at an annual rate of 3.2 percent so far this year. Overall, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent over the last year, continuing their steady pace.

Economists say that as the labor market tightens, employers will have to raise salaries.

“Nevertheless, more work remains to sustain faster wage growth and to ensure that the benefits of the recovery are broadly shared, including investing in infrastructure and job training, implementing high-standards free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and raising the minimum wage,” Furman said.

Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan, said on Twitter that the “bottom line is that the jobs report hints that employment growth may be a bit slower than previously thought, but it’s continuing at a healthy clip.”

The economy grew at an anemic 0.5 percent pace in the January-March period while expectations are that growth will improve to a 2 percent rate in the second quarter.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said that while “it’s always good to hear that more people went back to work these lackluster jobs numbers show our economy is not living up to its potential.”

The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for 27 weeks or more — declined by 150,000 to 2.1 million in April, making up 25.7 percent of the unemployed.

Retailers shed 3,100 jobs last month after adding 91,000 jobs over the past two months.

Moody’s Analytics cited a pullback in retail trade after several strong months for most of the April drop.

Mining employment continued to decline in April, losing 7,000 jobs. Since reaching a peak in September 2014, mining employment has fallen 191,000.

Construction added only 1,000 jobs after hiring 41,000 the month before.

Manufacturing hiring improved, adding 4,000 employees, after losing 29,000 jobs in March. 

National Association of Manufacturers chief economist Chad Moutray said that “the current state of the manufacturing economy continues to be a give-and-take between signs that the sector is beginning to improve — such as the [Institute for Supply Management] data released earlier in the week — versus ongoing challenges related to global headwinds.”

“Today’s job numbers represent both of those views.”

—Last updated at 1:25 p.m.

Tags Jason Furman Kevin Brady
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