Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:
Unemployment: The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 8.1 percent, down from 8.3 percent, according to official figures from the U.S. Labor Department. However, even if these figures are accurate, the U.S. economy is hardly out of the woods.
“Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern the world’s largest economy may be losing speed [emphasis added],” Bloomberg reports.
In other words, the decrease in unemployment can be attributed to the fact that people have left the labor force — a lot of people.
“In April the number of people not in the labor force rose by a whopping 522,000 from 87,897,000 to 88,419,000 [emphasis added],” Zero Hedge reports.
“Payrolls climbed 115,000, the smallest gain in six months, after a revised 154,000 rise in March that was more than initially estimated…The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 160,000 advance,” Bloomberg reports, adding that earnings stagnated.
Bottom line: the economy created only 115,000 jobs in April, 522,000 people left the labor force, the “official” unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, and total employment for the month actually fell 169,000, according to CNBC.
Oil: Oil prices fell below $102 a barrel Friday in Asia amid investor concern U.S. jobs growth last month may disappoint and suggest demand is weakening.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 98 cents to $101.56 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.68 to settle at $102.54 in New York on Thursday.
Brent crude for June delivery was down 67 cents at $115.41 per barrel in London.
Romania: Romania’s new left-leaning government has pledged a moratorium on shale gas exploration and will review a controversial Canadian plan to build Europe’s largest open-cast gold mine.
Prime Minister-designate Victor Ponta also said he will respect commitments to the International Monetary Fund, and increase public sector wages that were slashed by 25 percent in 2010 to meet the terms of a (EURO)20 billion($26 billion) IMF-led loan.
The measures are part of Ponta’s governing program, which was published Friday. Parliament is expected to approve Ponta’s Cabinet in a Monday vote.
The previous government which fell in a confidence vote last week, awarded U.S. petroleum company Chevron Corp. exploration rights of shale gas for large areas near the Black Sea in March, which drew criticism from environmentalists
Canada’s Rosia Montana Gold Corp. which has been waiting for permits to go ahead for 14 years for the gold mine in Transylvania, says it is believed to contain 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver.
The project, has been strongly criticized by environmentalists and historians because it uses cyanide in the extraction process and the mine is located in an area where there are Roman remains.
On Edge: Markets are on edge Friday because of crucial U.S. jobs figures and the weekend elections in France and Greece that could have a big bearing on how Europe’s debt crisis plays out over the coming months.
Before the elections, investors have the monthly U.S. government jobs report to digest. It often sets the market tone for a week or two after its release as it’s considered the key barometer of the health of the world’s largest economy.
Following a week of mixed U.S. economic releases, there’s a high degree of uncertainty going into the figures, which will be released an hour before Wall Street opens. At the moment, the consensus in the markets is that the U.S. generated around 160,000 jobs during April – a steady if unspectacular result. The range is between 90,000 and a little over 200,000.
UPDATE: U.S. stocks are falling sharply after the government reported that hiring slowed in April, confirming a slew of data during the month that showed the economy was weakening.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 160 points at 13,046 shortly before noon Friday.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 20 points to 1,371, while the Nasdaq composite index gave up 60 points to 2,963.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.