U.S. jobless rate ticked down to 5.1

U.S. job growth turned sluggish last month but was good enough to help nudge down the nation's unemployment rate to the lowest level since September 2001, the government reported yesterday.

Employers added 78,000 non-farm payroll jobs in May, the smallest gain since August 2003 and a sharp slowdown from the 274,000 added in April, the Labor Department said.

The jobless rate ticked down to 5.1 percent from 5.2 percent, as the people who found work slightly outnumbered the new job seekers, reports the Washington Post.

The jobs report fit many analysts' view that the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/18/89/358/10533_currency.html ' target=_blank>labor market is improving slowly as the economy expands at a healthy, though slowing, pace.

According to the Mercury News, the latest economic snapshot from the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/350/14576_Dollar.html ' target=_blank>U.S. Department of Labor recorded 78,000 new jobs, a significant drop from the hiring spree of 274,000 in April and far short of the 175,000 that economists had forecast.

Stock markets dipped on the news, with the Nasdaq losing 1.3 percent. But economists, while calling the latest job figures ``disappointing,'' remained guardedly optimistic about the country's overall economic health. Indeed, the unemployment rate nudged lower to 5.1 percent.

``By no means does this mean, `Oh, my God, the sky is falling,' '' said Christopher Thornberg, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. ``Average it out and it's the same trend: mediocre job growth over the last year.''

For the first five months of 2005, the nation added an average of 180,000 jobs a month, closely tracking last year's monthly average of 183,000, observed Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.

``The overall message is the economy is struggling a bit, but it's not struggling to keep itself out of a recession,'' said Gary Schlossberg, senior economist with Wells Capital Management in San Francisco. ``It's struggling to grow enough so it can generate enough jobs to keep the unemployment rate steady or move it lower.''

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