U.S. stimulus talks spurred by trailing payrolls

Payrolls rose less than projected in August and the unemployment rate was unexpectedly driven down by Americans leaving the labor force, boosting the odds of additional Federal Reserve easing to spur a faltering recovery.

The economy added 96,000 workers after a revised 141,000 increase in July that was smaller than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 92 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a gain of 130,000. The jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent.

Treasuries and gold rose on bets the figures make it more likely Fed policy makers will expand record monetary stimulus next week after Chairman Ben S. Bernanke called unemployment a “grave concern.” The report dealt a blow to President Barack Obama one day after he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for a second term.

“This is definitely a setback for the labor market and the economy,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York and former economist for the Fed. “This clearly validates Bernanke’s concern. We have Europe, the fiscal cliff, and it is a generally cautious business environment.”

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to price, fell to 1.66 percent at 3:35 p.m. in New York from 1.68 percent late yesterday. Gold futures for December delivery climbed 1.9 percent to $1,737.70 an ounce. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.3 percent to 1,436.10.

Fiscal Cliff

Employers may be reluctant to expand headcounts as they face a global economic slowdown and the so-called fiscal cliff, the $600 billion of tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect automatically at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

Some companies are planning to reduce staff. Mountain View, California-based Google Inc. said on Aug. 13 it will cut about 4,000 positions at its Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. unit, with about one-third of the reductions coming in the U.S. Printer maker Lexmark International Inc. on Aug. 28 announced plans to eliminate 1,700 jobs globally.

For Kimberly Hackler of White, Georgia, the job search has been “frustrating at best, a little disheartening.” The 49- year-old has been looking for work since November, applying for about 190 positions.

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