Friday, March 09, 2007

Soft Landing or No Landing at all?

From the Wall Street Journal

U.S. Payrolls Grow by 97,000As Jobless Rate Slips to 4.5%

"U.S. payrolls expanded last month at their slowest pace in two years as a steep drop in construction payrolls offset strength in the service sector.

However, employment in previous months was revised higher, the unemployment rate fell and hourly wages posted a strong gain, suggesting that the economy remains in solid shape despite a recent spate of weak data. The jobs figures should dampen expectations of any Federal Reserve rate cut in the near term. Fed funds futures contracts have recently priced in a rate cut as early as the second quarter........

Nonfarm payrolls increased 97,000 in February after growing an upwardly revised 146,000 in January and 226,000 in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Last month's gain was the slowest since January 2005. Previous reports showed job growth of 111,000 in January and 206,000 in December.

The unemployment rate fell 0.1 point last month to 4.5%. Average hourly earnings increased six cents, or 0.4%, to $17.16. That was up 4.1% from a year earlier.

The February payroll gain was in line with Wall Street expectations of a 100,000 rise. Other parts of the report were stronger than expected, however. Economists had expected a 4.6% unemployment rate and 0.3% rise in wages.

The jobs data should ease fears that a recent soft patch in data will turn into a more pronounced downturn. Gross domestic product grew just 2.2% during the fourth quarter, and recent data have pointed to similar sub par growth in the first quarter as well. ..........."


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