Because of the trade wars, Iran sanctions, presidential tweets and geopolitics, "businesses don't know what the future holds", DePalma said. Trump's tariffs might even be contributing to the weakness showing up in the jobs data and other parts of the economy.
Talks to prevent the duties from kicking in at 5 per cent on June 10 continue.
"It definitely looks like we've downshifted in the pace of job growth", said Michael Feroli, chief USA economist for JPMorgan Chase.
"The market is convinced that this is a weak number and the economy is slowing, and that the Fed will have to ease", Farr said.
"That could be a sign of going through some kind of transition here", said Josh Wright, chief economist at the recruiting software company iCIMS.
U.S. employers added the fewest workers in three months and wage gains cooled, suggesting broader economic weakness and likely boosting calls for a Federal Reserve interest rate cut as President Donald Trump's trade policies weigh on growth.
Last month's slowdown in job gains, however, probably understates the labour market's health as layoffs remain low.
Meanwhile, average hourly wages rose 0.2 per cent compared to April to $27.83, disappointing economists who had hoped for slightly stronger gains.
Markets had been cruising - despite a global slowdown - when President Trump began May with a threat to increase tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. Month over month, wages rose by 6 cents in May.
The moderation in wage gains, if sustained could cast doubts on the Fed's optimism that inflation would return to the United States central bank's 2 per cent target. "It gives the Fed license to cut rates".
Or, an unexpectedly weak employment report could intensify concerns that after a healthy first quarter, the United States economy is actually stumbling. Past year it averaged 223,000.
The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product rising at a 1.5 per cent annualized rate in the second quarter.
Fed policy makers have described the economy as solid, though recent remarks from Chairman Jerome Powell signaled openness to lower rates if needed. But the unemployment rate has remained at 3.6 percent, which is the lowest since December 1969, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The participation rate in the labour force, the proportion of Americans who are employed or looking for a job, did not change and continued at 62.8 per cent, the same level as in April.
Manufacturing payrolls increased by 3,000 last month.
US House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the employment report was 'a disturbing sign that the administration's disastrous special interest agenda is hollowing out our economy'.
Factory output has been weak and sentiment dropped to a 31-month low in May, with manufacturers anxious mostly about the trade tensions.
Employers in the construction sector hired 4,000 workers in May after adding 30,000 jobs to payrolls in April.