US job creation in May fell to its lowest level in more than five years, a sign of economic weakness that may limit the Federal Reserve’s ability to raise interest rates soon.
The Labor Department said that employers added just 38,000 jobs last month, the fewest since September 2010.
The jobless rate fell to 4.7% from 5%, the lowest since November 2007.
But this was partly due to people dropping out of the labour force and no longer being counted as unemployed.
The government said a month-long Verizon strike had depressed employment growth by 34,000 jobs. The strikers would have been considered unemployed and counted in the figures. But even without the Verizon strike, non-farm payrolls would have increased by just 72,000.
The goods producing sector, which includes mining and manufacturing, shed 36,000 jobs, the most since February 2010.
Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, has hinted that interest rates could rise soon if US jobs growth picks up.
Ian Shepherdson, of Pantheon Capital, said the chances of June rise were now “dead”, while the prospect of a July rise was “badly wounded”.
The dollar immediately weakened after the data was released as investors speculated that a rate rise this month was unlikely. The main share markets opened down, led by a 0.6% fall in the S&P 500.
Mohamed el-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz, said “this unusual jobs report puts the Fed in a tricky position”.