Hiring in May cut in half amid trade war fears

U.S. businesses slowed down hiring in May, adding fewer than half the typical monthly jobs that have been created this year on average. The slowdown is sparking fears the U.S. trade war is starting to ripple through the economy.

Employers added 75,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday, a figure that fell far short of economists’ expectations of about 175,000 jobs. The government also revised hiring figures for March and April to show that 75,000 fewer jobs were created than initially expected.

The unemployment rate stayed steady at 3.6%. Wage growth slowed down from the prior months—average hourly pay grew 3.1% year-over-year, down from a rate of 3.4% a few months ago.

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Uncertainty driven by politics is making businesses skittish, economists say. “Rising levels of uncertainty about the future path of economic activity appears to be keeping firms from hiring new employees. Given the mounting pressure from tariffs, market volatility, slowing economic growth internationally and hazy forecasts for interest rates, businesses understandably feel less confident about the environment they will be operating in,” Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group, said in an email.

164,000 monthly jobs have been created this year on average—more than enough to keep up with population growth, but far short of last year’s rate of over 200,000 a month.

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