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U.S. Job Growth Fails To Meet Expectations In August


The Federal Reserve takes a lot into account in deciding whether the U.S. economy can absorb another interest-rate hike. One of those things is the monthly jobs report. Today, we learned that 151,000 jobs were added in August, 30,000 less than expected. NPR's John Ydstie says that muddies the water a bit.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Fed officials would like to get their benchmark interest rate back to more normal levels after pushing it to near-zero during the Great Recession. Since then, they've raised rates only once - a quarter-of-a-point hike last December. But after job gains of more than 270,000 in June and July, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the case for raising rates again has strengthened. That fueled speculation the Fed will move at its September meeting in less than three weeks. That's less likely now, says Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust.

CARL TANNENBAUM: This morning's job report was good, but probably not good enough to prompt a near-term move from the Federal Reserve.

YDSTIE: But Bernard Baumohl at the Economic Outlook Group says the Fed will lose credibility if it doesn't raise rates later this month, especially after Yellen's comments and optimism from other Fed officials. After all, Baumohl says, even with the cooling in August, the average number of jobs added in the past three months is 232,000.

BERNARD BAUMOHL: They should take this jobs report as another sign that the economy is solid, that it's growing and that they should proceed with an interest-rate hike in September.

YDSTIE: Northern Trust's Carl Tannenbaum also sees the economy strengthening in the second half of the year, but he says December would be a better time to raise interest rates. Waiting would give the Fed more time to signal its intentions to the financial markets and help avoid negative overreaction. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.