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Job creation fell sharply in May with just 138,000 new positions created, while the unemployment rate declined to 4.3 percent, according to Labor Department data released Friday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters expected nonfarm payrolls to grow by 185,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.4 percent.
Wage growth also disappointed, with average hourly earnings rising at a 2.5 percent annualized pace.
In addition to the weak May numbers, previous months also saw significant downward revisions. March's weak 79,000 got sliced down to 50,000, while the April number declined to 174,000 from 211,000. Taken together, job growth has averaged just 121,000 over the past three months.
The report comes amid hopes that the U.S. economy will accelerate after an anemic first quarter that saw GDP increase just 1.2 percent. President Donald Trump has promised his pro-growth agenda will ignite an economy that has shown steady but slow growth since the end of the Great Recession.
Federal Reserve policymakers are watching the jobs data closely, particularly for wage increases. The central bank is expected to continue on a path of periodic rate increases, but slowness in inflation could alter its plans.