The U.S. economy added 54,000 jobs in May, way below expectations and sparking fears that the world’s largest economy is headed back into a recession, economists say.
Analyst polls were expecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report around 150,000 or 160,000 new jobs, according to newswire reports, yet the reported figure brings unemployment up to 9.1 percent from 9 percent in April.
“The employment data has confirmed the market’s worst fears about a marked slowdown in U.S. economic activity, to the extent that any one report can be relied upon,” says Alan Ruskin, strategist at Deutsche Bank, according to the Financial Times.
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The White House was quick to point out the weak jobs number is just short-term dip in a longer-term employment recovery.
“There are always bumps on the road to recovery, but the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years,” says Austan Goolsbee, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Financial Times adds.
Other economists are worried whether weak jobs figures and other grim economic indicators are as temporary as officials say they are, with fears growing that they may be more lasting.
"Economic activity has clearly hit a soft patch," says Steven Wood, chief economist for Insight Economics, according to the Associated Press.
"The open question is whether this is temporary and will quickly reverse itself over the next couple of months or whether this is an adjustment to a slower permanent growth rate."
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