While last month's job gains could still be sufficient for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month, the modest increase could raise concerns about the economy's health after growth slowed in the first quarter.
The U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs last month, less than the 174,000 jobs gained in April and lower than expected. That was down a bit from April and was modestly below economists' expectations.
But dig deeper into the report and the picture gets uglier.
Despite continued steady job growth in 2017, earnings have yet to break out of this mid-two percent pace.
Then there is the retail sector.
Of the 211,000 jobs added in April, more than a quarter were in the generally lower-paying leisure and hospitality industry - hotels, restaurants and amusement parks. And it is possible that some stores want to hire but are struggling to find workers willing to accept retail wages at a time when jobs are relatively plentiful.
"The loss of manufacturing jobs in May is a stark reminder of the challenges that face factory workers", Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a statement, calling on Trump and Congress to address the USA trade deficit.
But because most of its positions are entry-level jobs geared for younger workers, the company has been able to pay them in part through bonuses rather than hourly raises.
The 2016 May jobs report stunned everyone when the US only added 38,000 jobs (it was later revised up a little). Hiring was still enough to help keep pushing unemployment lower. It's too soon to worry, but not too soon to start paying attention.
Economists surveyed by Reuters expected nonfarm payrolls to grow by 185,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.4 percent. That might sound like good news.
Investors were also keeping an eye on the underemployment rate, which takes not only the official unemployment rate but adds those who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work. But the rate declined mainly because people stopped looking for work last month and so were no longer counted as unemployed. The highest employment rate was found in El Centro, California at 19.2 percent. The labour force participation rate was 62.7%, retreating from earlier this year.
A one- or two-month drop in the labor force isn't necessarily cause for alarm. Some economists pointed out that the retirement of baby boomers would continue to press down labor-force participation.
The dollar hit a seven-month low against a basket of currencies on the diminishing rate hike prospects in the second half of the year.
Despite the slower job growth, the historically low jobless rate might give the Federal Reserve the leeway to increase interest rates. "Today's numbers probably won't stop the Fed from raising rates this month".
The Brent futures LCOc1 fell 0.8 percent to $50.24 per barrel, near its three-week low of $49.81 set on Wednesday. Against the yen, the USA dollar fell to two week lows and last changed hands at 110.44 yen, down 0.8 per cent.
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