U.S. employers added about 150,000 jobs in the latest month and the jobless rate was steady, most economists forecast the Labor Department would say Friday.
The May jobs report, to be released by the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. EDT, would be an improvement over April's seasonally adjusted 115,000 jobs, the smallest increase since October.
The April figures showed private employers added 130,000 jobs while governments cut their payrolls 15,000.
The average monthly pace of job creation was 229,000 during the first three months of 2012.
The unemployment rate, derived from a separate survey, was widely expected to remain at 8.1 percent, the lowest rate since January 2009.
The Wall Street Journal said Labor Department information Friday about the types of jobs being created, which industries were adding or subtracting jobs, and whether wages were increasing, would prove more important than the raw numbers.
The jobs report, along with the one coming out a month from now, could have an outsize effect on the November elections, economists told USA Today, as voters firm up their thoughts about the economy.
Midyear job growth has often been a reliable election predictor, the newspaper said.
Employment growth was strong in the spring and summer of 1972, 1984 and 1996 and to a lesser degree 2004 -- and incumbent presidents were re-elected, the newspaper said.
The reverse was the case in 1976, 1980 and 1992, when incumbents lost.
Friday's job report is the first since Mitt Romney sewed up the GOP nomination with his Texas primary win Tuesday.
After last month's report, Romney told a campaign audience, "This is a time when America wants to have someone who knows what it takes to create jobs and get people working again."
President Barack Obama argues the economy is recovering slowly from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Congress should do more to spur growth.
He was to deliver remarks in suburban Minneapolis around 12:10 p.m. CDT (1:10 p.m. EDT) Friday urging U.S. lawmakers to act a "to do" list of measures he announced last month that he says will create jobs.
Obama was to focus Friday on a "to do" list proposal to create a Veterans Jobs Corps to help place veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as police officers and firefighters or in other community-service jobs, the White House said Thursday night.