U.S. job growth surges, unemployment rate falls to 3.8 percent

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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job growth accelerated in May and the unemployment rate dropped to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, pointing to rapidly tightening labor market conditions, which could stir concerns about inflation.

The closely watched employment report released by the Labor Department on Friday also showed wages rising solidly, cementing expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month and boosting the probability of two more hikes later in the year. It renewed fears about the economy overheating.

“The strength of the labor market supports our forecast for the Fed to raise rates three more times this year,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The Fed is going to get antsy that the labor market will blow too far past full employment.”

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 223,000 jobs last month as warm weather bolstered hiring at construction sites. There were also big gains in retail and leisure and hospitality payrolls. The economy created 15,000 more jobs than previously reported in March and April.

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