Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Cautious employers added fewer jobs to the U.S. economy in April, prompting concerns that the labor market is starting to feel the strain of a sluggish economy.
According to the Labor Department, U.S. payrolls grew by just 88,000 last month... their smallest growth in more than two years.
Unemployment rose to 4.5 percent in April... up just one-tenth of one percent. Taken together the figures suggest the labor market may be cooling a bit — but not collapsing.
Average hourly earnings rose to $17.25 in April, up slightly from March. Wage growth supports consumer spending, a vital ingredient of economic vitality. But a rapid pickup — if not curtailed by other economic forces — can prompt fears of inflation.
Against that backdrop, the Federal Reserve is expected to leave a key interest rate unchanged at 5.25 percent when it meets next Wednesday.
Wall Street smiled on the government's employment report and the Dow closed at a record high again on Friday.
One government agency that did add a new position to the payrolls recently is the Food and Drug Administration. And this week, the newly created Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection assured the American public that the nation's food supply is safe, despite the fact that adulterated feed given to animals now has entered the human food chain.
While the FDA has confirmed the deaths of only 16 pets from eating contaminated pet food, health officials continue to investigate the deaths of over 4,000 cats and dogs to determine if melamine is responsible.
This week, U.S. officials announced 2.5 to 3 million broiler chickens from 30 farms in Indiana had been given contaminated pet food as part of their feed. Most of the chickens have been sold and eaten but 100,000 breeder birds from 8 other farms have been quarantined and will be destroyed.
In reaction to recent incidents regarding food safety, the FDA appointed Doctor David Acheson on Monday to the newly created position of Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection. On Tuesday Acheson said, "We don't believe there is any significant threat of human illness from consuming poultry that may have been given very low levels of the contaminated pet food."
The contamination, believed to have originated in China, prompted the FDA to alert importers that it may detain shipments of protein from China regardless of their inspection status. Chinese imports account for about 10 percent of wheat gluten used in human food and as much as 40 percent of gluten imports that go into animal feed.
For its part, the U.S. Senate this week unanimously approved an amendment calling for stricter production and labeling standards on pet food. The amendment establishes an animal version of the system that now tracks food contamination, illnesses and deaths in humans.