Economy adds 75K jobs in May, well below expectations

The U.S economy added 75,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department reported Friday, falling short of expectations by nearly 100,000 jobs.

Economists expected the U.S. to add roughly 185,000 jobs in May after a massive gain of more than 200,000 in April.

But employment growth fell well short of that mark last month, though the unemployment rate and labor force participation rate stayed even at 3.6 percent and 62.8 percent, respectively.

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The Labor Department also revised down March’s gain from 189,000 to 153,000 jobs, and April’s from 263,000 to 224,000 jobs. The revisions shave 75,000 jobs off the books for 2019.

Average monthly job gains have slowed to 164,000 in 2019 from 223,000 in 2018, while wage growth was effectively flat in May. 

The jobs report included one bright spot: A broader measure of unemployment that includes people wanting to work but not seeking a job fell to a decade low of 7.1 percent.

Even so, the federal report is the latest sign of concern about the health of the U.S. economy as it nears a decade of recovery from the 2008 recession.

The ADP National Employment report released Wednesday found that private payrolls increased by just 27,000 jobs in May, another foreboding sign of easing growth. The economy also faces headwinds from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE's proposed 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods and 25 percent tariff on $300 billion more in Chinese products.

Economists say the combination of slowing employment growth and fiscal pressures from tariffs could prompt the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates. 

"This report, combined with nerves around tariffs, will be enough to force a rate cut from the Fed in either June or July. Whether that is enough to satisfy markets will depend largely on how trade policies evolve,” said Curt Long, chief economist at the National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions.

Analysts and investors have steadily raised the odds of a Fed rate cut as inflation remains below the central bank's target and economic growth appears to be easing. Economists have also warned that if applied in full force, Trump's proposed tariffs could trigger a recession in the U.S. and abroad.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the bank will "act as appropriate to sustain the expansion" as it monitors the impact of Trump's trade policies. Investors took his comments as a hint toward a future rate hike, and stocks rallied throughout the day. 

The Fed's rate-setting panel, the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), will start its next monthly two-day meeting on June 18. Powell will hold a press conference after the Fed announces its rate decision on June 19.

James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and an FOMC member, said Monday that cutting interest rates may be appropriate. His remarks made him the first Fed official to indicate support for a rate hike in 2019.

Updated at 9:39 a.m.