Markets slide as dismal US jobs data spooks investors


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The Independent Online

Dismal jobs data in the US and new anxieties over the eurozone crisis sent markets on both sides of the Atlantic tumbling again yesterday.

Non-farm payroll figures from the Department of Labor showed that the US economy added no net new jobs at all in August, bringing 10 consecutive months of rising employment figures to a halt. Though private payrolls increased by 17,000 last month, this was cancelled out by a 17,000 fall in government employment. Analysts had been expecting the economy to create around 75,000 new jobs.

In a further blow, the official figures for the previous two months of job creation were revised down. The Labor Department says that in July 85,000 jobs were created, down from 117,000, while the number of jobs added in June was lowered from 46,000 to 20,000. The weak employment figures were attributed to firms holding back on hiring in the face of weak consumer and business confidence. The number of people in the US forced to work part-time because they were unable to find full-time employment also rose by 400,000 to 8.8m in August.

Barack Obama will deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress next Thursday, in which the US President will outline how his administration will attempt to boost growth and create jobs for the 14m unemployed Americans. This is expected to include calls for a tax cut for middle-class Americans and an increase of infrastructure investment. The Federal Reserve will discuss the possible reintroduction of quantitative easing at its next meeting later this month.

Global stock markets slumped yesterday in response to the figures. The Dow Jones was down nearly 2 per cent in afternoon trade at 11,310. In Europe, the FTSE 100 Index closed down 2.3 per cent at 5292, while the benchmark German Dax shed 3.4 per cent.

Markets also continue to be unnerved by the eurozone crisis. Talks between the Greek government and a delegation of international officials were suspended yesterday after a row over its deficit reduction schedule.

In addition to yesterday's sell-off on stock markets, there was also a flight intoperceived safe-haven assets. The yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds fell to 2.05 per cent and gold rose to $1,876 an ounce.