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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.
More Business News
Last Update on October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.
The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.
Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.
The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.
The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.
The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.
Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.
The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.
Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.
Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.
Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.
Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.
The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.
But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.
Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.
NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL
DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.
Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.
Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.
The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.
The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.
Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.
The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.
LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.
The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.
The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.
CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."
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