Stocks are showing modest weakness during mid-morning trading on Friday, as investors respond to some negative news on the job market and the service sector. The major averages have slipped well below the unchanged line after seeing some early uncertainty.
Earlier, the Labor Department said that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. The increase lifted the unemployment rate to its highest level since November of 1983.
While the report looks backward at job losses already posted, traders still don't want to see big growth in the number of people out of work, because it is likely to crimp consumer spending and the economy's attempts to recover.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management released its report on activity in the service sector for March, showing that the index of activity in the sector unexpectedly fell to 40.8 in March from 41.6 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector.
In recent trading, the major averages have moved well off their lows for the session, although they currently remain in negative territory. The Dow is currently down 38.15 at 7,939.93, the Nasdaq is down 1.65 at 1,600.98 and the S&P 500 is down 3.53 at 830.85.
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