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US employers in August added fewer jobs than expected, but the underlying trend continued to show a solid labour market recovery. This kept stock markets buoyant on Friday, with the benchmark S&P 500 Index coming within a few points of a new all-time high.

The US economy created 156,000 nonfarm jobs in August, following a downwardly revised gain of 189,000 in July, the Department of Labor reported Friday from Washington. Analysts in a median estimate called for a gain of 180,000.

Some analysts were expecting an even bigger gain after the ADP Research Institute reported a 237,000 increase in private-sector jobs in August. Based on the ADP figures, that was the biggest gain since March. It was also the third time in four months that private payrolls increased by more than 200,000.

The Labor Department also said the unemployment rate edged up to 4.4% in August from 4.3% the previous month, confounding expectations of no change. Workforce participation was unchanged at 62.9%, matching estimates.

Average hourly earnings rose just 0.1% for the month, and were up 2.5% form year-ago levels.

Wall Street shrugged off the numbers, as US stocks continued higher. The S&P 500 Index recorded its sixth consecutive gain, climbing 0.2% to 2,476.55. The index came within one point of a new all-time high during intraday trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to close at 21,987.56. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.1% to finish at 6,435.33.

European markets also finished higher following the jobs report, with the Stoxx Europe 600 gaining 0.7%. Every sector except telecommunications finished in positive territory. All major national bourses also finished in positive territory, with Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 adding 0.7% apiece.

Wall Street is closed on Monday for the Labour Day holiday. Asian and European markets are trading in the wake of fresh geopolitical unrest on the Korean peninsula, which will likely impact investor sentiment throughout the week.

ADP (30 August 2017). ADP Employment Report: Private Sector Employment Increased by 237,000 Jobs in August.

Sam Bourgi (1 September 2017). “S&P 500 Futures Approach Record High After August Jobs Report.” Economic Calendar.

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