Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Job Report Revives Concerns

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Job Report Revives Concerns

Article excerpt

The jobs numbers released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department were disappointing for investors, economists and businesspeople looking for signs the economy is emerging from the sputtering, stop- and-go growth of the past two years.

Employers added 115,000 jobs in April, well below the 160,000 expected, and fewer than the number generally considered necessary to absorb new workers entering the job market. The unemployment rate edged down slightly, to 8.1 percent, from 8.2 percent, due in part to fewer people seeking employment.

The tepid jobs report Friday reflects the gathering belief that the economy is decelerating. Behind that belief is the uncertainty facing businesses over the direction of tax rates and the fate of President Obama's health care plan as well as renewed concerns about the debt crisis in Europe. The latest data are also bad news for the president's reelection hopes.

Because of demographic trends, including the aging of the baby boomers -- 10,000 of them turn 65 every day -- "a gain of 115,000 is actually sufficient to keep the unemployment rate slowly headed down. But that's exactly the problem, politically," said Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer of Advisors Capital Management LLC in Hasbrouck Heights. "Slowly is not good enough. We have too many people who are unemployed."

Anika Khan, a senior economist for Wells Fargo bank who focuses on the New Jersey economy, said the numbers were "very disappointing" because they missed expectations. However, she said, "the overall story is that we are seeing some improvement." Some of the weakness in the jobs numbers for April, Khan said, can be attributed to warm weather at the beginning of the year that pulled in jobs in industries like construction ahead of usual patterns, causing those jobs to be added in the winter months, instead of April.

However, the fact that the unemployment rate dropped because of a decline in the labor force was troubling, Kahn said.

While the federal government Friday said the jobs numbers for February and March were 53,000 higher than originally reported, the miss for April is likely to make businesses cautious about the direction of the economy. …

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