What slowdown? Unemployment declines in June

By John S. McClenahen With consumer spending slowing and just about every sector of the U.S. economy -- with the exception of spending on technology -- showing signs of moderation, a slight rise in the unemployment rate in June was widely anticipated. It didn't happen. The U.S. jobless rate fell to 4% in June, down 0.1 of a percentage point from May's level, show the latest data from the U.S. Labor Dept.'s Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, private-sector payroll employment rose May-to-June by 206,000, people, stronger than the 175,000-person increase that Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, said would be acceptable to Chairman Alan Greenspan and the other economy watchers at the U.S. Federal Reserve. In the closely watched goods sector of the economy, employment in manufacturing increased 8,000 people month-to-month and the skills-short construction industry added 3,000 workers. There will be another employment report before the Fed's next scheduled meeting on interest rates on Aug. 22 -- and the members of the Federal Open Market Committee will be carefully eyeing it, the upcoming consumer and producer price index reports, and retail sales. A 25-basis-point increase in short-term interest rates cannot be discounted -- yet.

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