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Hiring Picks Up but Not Enough to Sideline Fed

Reuters (08/03/12) Lucia Mutikani

Although employers hired the most workers in five months in July, an increase in the jobless rate to 8.3% keeps prospects of further monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve on the table. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 163,000 last month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Friday. The Federal Reserve on Aug. 1 sent a stronger signal that a new round of major support could be on the way if the recovery does not pick up.

The step-up in hiring left economists divided on whether the Fed would ease monetary policy at its Sept. 12-13 meeting, as had been widely anticipated before the jobs report. “We think the odds are still tilted in favor of more Fed accommodation at the September meeting, and that call obviously remains contingent on economic and financial developments over the next six weeks,” says Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan. The increase in payrolls last month was confirmation the slump in job growth in the second quarter was largely payback for an unusually warm winter that had brought forward hiring into the early months of the year, economists say. As such, this suggests that employment numbers for August could look more like July’s, reducing the pressure for the Fed to take further action next month. “That doesn’t mean they are not going to go, it just means their sense of urgency for pulling the trigger and moving again is marginally less than it was,” says Ray Stone, an economist at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates.