U.S. employment growth slowed more than expected in August after two straight months of robust gains and wage gains moderated, which could effectively rule out an interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve this month.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 151,000 jobs last month after an upwardly revised 275,000 increase in July, with hiring in manufacturing and construction sectors declining, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent as more people entered the labor market.
The report comes on the heels of news on Thursday that the manufacturing sector contracted in August, which had already cast doubts on an interest rate hike at the Fed's Sept. 20-21 policy meeting.
"This mixed jobs report puts the Fed in a tricky situation. It's not all around strong enough to assure a September interest rate hike. But it's solid enough to engender a heated policy discussion," said Mohamed el-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, in Newport Beach, California.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising 180,000 last month and the unemployment rate slipping one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.8 percent.
A rate hike this month may be on pause because of the miss, but at this point I would think that a rate hike before the election would probably make people crabby anyway, so it's probably a good thing short term. Still, 77 straight months of job growth, a mark that will probably never be equaled in my lifetime. I'm hoping very much that it will continue into a Hillary Clinton presidency.