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Friday, May 6, 2011

Gas $ 3.99 Gallon Average Highest Since July 2008: Rate of Job Growth Too Slow to Help Unemployment Rate

Last time gas prices hit $4 a Gallon...
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Employment in U.S. Likely Slowed as Companies Cut Spending

www.bloomberg.com
May 6, 2011
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The pace of hiring in the U.S. probably cooled in April as companies curbed spending in the face of rising raw-material costs, economists said ahead of a government report today.
Payrolls rose by 185,000 workers last month compared with a 216,000 advance in March, according to the median forecast of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The jobless rate may have held at 8.8 percent.
The economic recovery that began in June 2009 may need to generate more jobs to ensure that consumers, whose spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy, will be able to weather rising fuel and food prices. An employment slowdown underscores why Federal Reserve policy makers last week decided to forge ahead with record monetary stimulus to bolster the expansion.
The current, “moderate” rate of job growth “is a pace that really wouldn’t do much for the unemployment rate,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. “There’s a lot of slack in the economy, especially in the labor market. Higher gasoline prices have been a restraint in the near-term.”
The Labor Department’s jobs numbers are due at 8:30 a.m. in Washington. Bloomberg survey estimates range from payroll increases of 118,000 to 325,000.
Private payrolls, which exclude government positions, are forecast to rise by 200,000 following a 230,000 gain the previous month, according to the survey median. The projected April increase would be the smallest in three months.

Two-Year Low

The jobless rate dropped a percentage point over the four months ended March to reach 8.8 percent, the lowest level in two years. Estimates in the Bloomberg survey for April range from 8.6 percent to 9 percent.
While payrolls have grown each month since October, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said on April 27 that central bankers would like to see more strength in the U.S. labor market, noting that a recovery has been “quite slow.”
“The labor market is improving gradually,” Bernanke said to reporters during the first-ever press conference following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting. “We would like to make sure that that is sustainable. The longer it goes on, the more confident we are.”
Households may find it difficult to boost spending as they pay more for groceries and gas. The average price of regular gasoline was $3.99 a gallon on May 4, the highest since July 2008, according to AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring organization. Food costs rose 0.8 percent in March, also the most since July 2008, data from the Labor Department showed last month.

Stocks Retreat

Stocks have fallen over the past week on concerns that a slowdown in U.S. growth during the first three months of the year may be extending into the second quarter. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has declined 2.1 percent since April 29.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) fell 0.9 percent yesterday, the most since April 18, after the biggest plunge in commodity prices since 2009. Cheap fuel prices would help ease the damage to consumer spending.
“If we get gasoline prices down, that should help consumer spending and in turn the job outlook,” said Raymond James’ Brown.
The economy expanded at a 1.8 percent annual pace in the first quarter, down from the 3.1 percent rate the previous three months, the Commerce Department said last week.

Growth Slowdown

Other economic measures are signaling a pause in the expansion. The Institute for Supply Management’s indexes of manufacturing and non-manufacturing companies both declined in April.
Some companies are still planning to add workers. “We are going to be hiring and growing employment in Puget Sound and in South Carolina over the foreseeable future,” Jim McNerney, chief executive officer of Boeing Co. (BA), said on an April 27 teleconference. “Production rates are fueling really an unprecedented growth for commercial airplanes.”
Manufacturing employment is forecast to rise by 20,000 in April after a 17,000 increase a month earlier, according to the Bloomberg survey. In January, factory payrolls rose 53,000.

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