The U.S. economy has created an average of 200,000 jobs per month this year, but the brisk pace of hiring in the spring is slowing this summer.
The government reported Friday that U.S. employers added 162,000 positions to their payrolls in July in the weakest month of job creation since March.
America’s unemployment rate fell to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent. While acknowledging that more workers found jobs, analysts said the two-tenths of point improvement also was because others stopped looking for work, and therefore were no longer counted as unemployed.
The report awakened hibernating bears on Wall Street, where the major indices all declined on the news before paring losses later in the session Friday.
One day earlier, the government reported the U.S. economy -- as measured by gross domestic product -- grew at a lackluster 1.7 percent annual rate in the 2nd quarter. That was better than a revised 1.1 percent in the first quarter, but it’s still far too slow to make a serious dent in unemployment.
And the Federal Reserve said this week it’s too early to say when it will begin tapering its monthly purchases of $85 billion worth of bonds, which help keep interest rates low in hopes of stimulating the economy.
No one really knows how the markets will react to the end of the Fed stimulus, but the mere suggestion of the taper has been bearish – despite the fact that it signals a healthier economy.
Uncertainty could be found in the produce aisle as well this week after an outbreak of foodborne illness was traced to a parasite in lettuce traced to a facility in Mexico.
Bags of salad are at the center of the cyclospora outbreak according to health officials in a pair of Midwestern states.
Health officials in Nebraska and Iowa say they've traced cases to prepackaged salad, but they haven't said which brand or where it was sold, explaining only that most -- if not all of the product—was NOT grown locally. (Late Friday, FDA officials confirmed the source of the tainted lettuce in some of the cases was Taylor de Mexico.)
In Iowa, nearly 150 people have been sickened by the bug. Nevertheless, officials say the threat is over and the affected salad is no longer in the food chain.
But federal authorities caution it may be too early to say that the threat is over.
Nebraska investigators said the salad mix in question included iceberg and romaine lettuce, along with red cabbage and carrots that moved through national distribution chains.
The rare parasite, cyclospora, poses a health threat when humans ingest food or water contaminated with feces. People exposed usually become sick after about a week and have flu-like symptoms that can last anywhere from a few days to a month, if left untreated.
Dr. Andi Shane, Emory University: "Cyclospora is unique that it is a parasite and because it exists in this very hardy cyst form it's much more resistant to washing and routine methods that people may use before consuming their produce."
All told, nearly 400 people in 15 states have been sickened with the lengthy, intestinal illness.
Food safety advocates say that lack of specifics being released concerns them. They want companies responsible to be held accountable when outbreaks happen. And, they add customers need the information about where outbreaks originated to make food choices.
California provides much of the nation’s leafy green produce and health officials there haven’t received any reports of cyclospora.
Health officials advise short of growing your own food, avoiding an outbreak may be problematic. And they say, all food, whether local, natural or organic, has the potential to be exposed to safety hazards on the farm, in transit or in the store.