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US Employers Add 175K Jobs, Rate Up to 7.6 Percent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is adding jobs at a steady pace — enough to show strength in the face of tax increases and government spending cuts if not enough to reduce still-high unemployment.
Employers added 175,000 jobs in May, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent in April, the Labor Department said Friday. The rate rose because more people began looking for work, a healthy sign. About three-quarters found jobs.
The government revised the job figures for the previous two months. April’s gain was lowered to 149,000 from 165,000. March’s was increased slightly to 142,000 from 138,000. The net loss was 12,000 jobs.
Investors appeared pleased by the evidence that job growth remains steady. The Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 200 points in late-morning trading.
Friday’s job figures provided further evidence of the U.S. economy’s resilience. The housing market is strengthening, auto sales are up and consumer confidence has reached a five-year peak. Stock prices are near record highs, and the budget deficit has shrunk.
The U.S. economy’s relative strength contrasts with Europe, which is gripped by recession, and Asia, where once-explosive economies are now struggling.
Many analysts expect the U.S. economy to strengthen later this year.
‘‘Today’s report has to be encouraging for growth in the second half of the year,’’ said Dan Greenhaus, an analyst at BTIG LLC.
It also eased worries that had arisen after economic reports earlier this week had suggested that the economy might be weakening.
Employers have added an average of 155,000 jobs the past three months. But the May gain almost exactly matched the average increase of the previous 12 months: 172,000.
Analysts said the less-than-robust job growth would likely lead the Federal Reserve to maintain the pace of its monthly bond purchases for at least a few more months. The Fed has said it will keep buying bonds at the same rate until the job market improves substantially. The bond purchases have helped drive down interest rates and boost stock prices.
Stock markets have gyrated in the past two weeks on speculation that the Fed would soon start to taper its $85 billion-a-month in bond buying — a step that could raise rates and cause stock prices to fall.
‘‘I think the Fed will stay on hold,’’ said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight. ‘‘They want to see numbers above 200,000 on payroll jobs on a consistent basis before they start to taper off.’’
Behravesh said he thinks the Fed will maintain its pace of bond buying through this year before scaling it back in 2014.
‘‘Today’s report is perhaps the perfect number for nervous investors,’’ said James Marple, Senior Economist at TD Economics. ‘‘It is strong enough to point to continued economic recovery but not so strong as to bring forward expectations of Fed tapering.’’
Other analysts who have predicted that the Fed would start trimming its bond purchases later this year said they didn’t think Friday’s jobs report would change that timetable.
John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial, blames the Federal Reserve for not specifying how much monthly job growth it wants to see before it scales back its bond buying.
‘‘They have not been transparent enough,’’ Canally said. ‘‘That is what has unhinged markets.’’
Some signs in the report suggested that the spending cuts and weaker global growth are weighing on the job market. Manufacturers cut 8,000 jobs, and the federal government shed 14,000. Both were the third straight month of cuts for those industries.
The number of temporary jobs rose about 26,000, the second straight month of strong gains. That suggests that employers are responding to more demand but aren’t confident enough to hire permanent workers. Many temporary employees work in manufacturing, which cut permanent jobs.
But industries that rely directly on consumer spending hired at a healthy pace — a sign of confidence that consumers will keep spending. Retailers added 28,000 jobs. Restaurants and hotels added 33,000.
Average hourly wages ticked up just a penny in May, to $23.89. That was because much of the job growth was in lower-paying industries.
But mild inflation is boosting American’s purchasing power. Over the past 12 months, hourly wages have risen 2 percent. Inflation has increased just 1.1 percent in that time.
The economy grew at a solid annual rate of 2.4 percent in the first three months of the year. Consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in more than two years. But economists worry that the steep government spending cuts and higher Social Security taxes might be slowing growth in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of 2 percent or less.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Last Update on August 21, 2014 07:34 GMT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Asian stock markets were dampened by a weak China manufacturing survey Thursday. But Japan gained on the prospect of a stronger dollar after Fed minutes showed policymakers are leaning toward their first rate hike since the 2008 financial crisis.
Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent to 15,575.82 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,645.70. South Korea's Kospi sank 1.2 percent to 2,047.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 24,948.59. China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.7 percent to 2,225.44.
ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department today will report on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. In the previous week, more people applied for benefits, though the figure remained near pre-recession levels.
The Conference Board will issue its index of leading economic indicators for July. In June, the index, which is designed to predict the economy's future health, increased for a fifth straight month.
The National Association of Realtors will report on existing-home sales in July. In June, sales rose for a third straight month, lifting the figure to the highest level in eight months.
Freddie Mac reports on average U.S. mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slipped to 4.12 percent from 4.14 percent the previous week.
Also today, two big retailers report their quarterly financial results. Sears reports before the market opens. Gap reports after the closing bell.
HONG KONG (AP) -- A survey says Chinese factory activity expanded in August at a slower rate, suggesting the recovery in the world's No. 2 economy is losing momentum.
The HSBC preliminary purchasing managers' index fell to a three-month low of 50.3 from 51.7 in July.
The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction.
China's economy had been showing signs of revival after a slowdown, with growth edging higher to 7.5 percent in the April-June quarter. But the report on the country's vast manufacturing industry shows the recovery is uneven.
Communist leaders in Beijing have already unveiled small-scale stimulus to bolster growth. HSBC economists said "more policy support is needed to consolidate the recovery."
The final version of the survey is due Sep. 1.
BANK OF AMERICA-SETTLEMENT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Officials directly familiar with intense private negotiations have told The Associated Press that Bank of America has reached a record settlement of nearly $17 billion with the government. The aim is to resolve a federal investigation into the bank's role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis.
One of the officials, who spoke with The Associated Press said the bank will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion. The official spoke on grounds of anonymity because the settlement was not scheduled to be announced until Thursday at the earliest.
The deal is the largest settlement arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. It follows agreements in the last year with Citigroup for $7 billion and with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $13 billion.
Like the Bank of America deal, those settlements were a mixture of hard cash and "credits" for various forms of consumer aid that the banks promised to provide in coming years.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Warren Buffett's company has agreed to an $896,000 penalty for failing to give advance notice to l regulators about a December 2013 investment in wallboard maker USG Corp.
The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. should have notified the Justice Department before it converted $325 million of senior USG notes it held into 21.4 million shares of the company.
Because Berkshire was already a significant USG shareholder, antitrust laws required it to notify regulators because of the size of the deal. At the end of June, Berkshire held just over 39 million USG shares.
Berkshire did correct its initial filing after the USG investment and clarify that it should have notified officials. But regulators said Berkshire made a similar mistake six months earlier.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation's first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.
The General Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation addressing the problem unmasked six months ago when a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law.
Environmentalists say the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn't go far enough.
Lawmakers say the measure would reverse a Superior Court judge's ruling that Duke must take "immediate action" to eliminate groundwater contamination that crosses onto a neighboring property.
Environmental attorney Frank Holleman says that will allow Duke to study the problem indefinitely before starting cleanup.
ATLANTA (AP) -- Some customers of The UPS Store may have had their credit and debit card information exposed by a computer virus found on systems at 51 stores in 24 states.
A spokeswoman for UPS says the information includes names, card numbers and postal and email addresses from about 100,000 transactions between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11.
United Parcel Service Inc. said Wednesday that it was among U.S. retailers who got a Department of Homeland Security bulletin about the malware on July 31. The malware is not identified by current anti-virus software.
Spokeswoman Chelsea Lee says the company isn't aware of any fraud related to the attack.
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