On Wall Street, traders looked at the conflicting signs and apparently decided that the Federal Reserve will soon pause its rate-boost campaign.
Payrolls grew by 138,000 in April, well shy of the 200,000-plus expected by analysts, but enough to keep average monthly job growth at a respectable pace.
The national jobless rate held steady at 4.7 percent, while Utah's continued to zoom ahead. State-specific information for April won't be released until later this month. But in March, Utah employers continued to add jobs at one of the highest rates in the country.
The state added 48,500 jobs in the year that ended March 31 for a job-growth rate of 4.3 percent, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
On the national front, wages made their strongest gain in nearly five years, rising 0.5 percent during the month and 3.8 percent during the past year.
''They are just about back to where they started at the beginning of the recovery'' in late 2001, said Jared Bernstein, senior economist for the Economic Policy Institute. ''Any improvement in the living standards of working families has come from more hours of work, not from rising real hourly wages.''
Still, hiring continued to hum in some areas. For instance, both commercial and residential building companies have been scrambling to find talent.
The gradually tightening job market is probably the reason for wage gains, which are being welcomed by many working Americans as long overdue.
Wage gains are viewed differently on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve, where they spur fears of paycheck-fueled inflation. To cool expansion and stifle inflation, the Federal Reserve has already raised the benchmark short-term rate 15 times in two years.
At their meeting next week, rate-setters are expected to lift rates again.
''That is locked in,'' said Edmund Hyland, Atlanta-based global investment specialist for JPMorgan Private Bank. ''But we think they will be careful not to slow the economy too much.''
Higher rates burden consumers by lifting credit card and many mortgage payments. Debts already are near record levels, foreclosures are rising and household savings are negative, but consumers have defied pessimists before by continuing to spend.
One hint of a consumer pullback might be in the job numbers for the retail sector: a loss of 36,000 jobs. But more than half of other sectors added jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even manufacturing, down 3 million jobs since 2000, added 19,000 jobs in April. And while job growth was weak, hours worked were up - a sign, like higher wages, of higher demand for workers.
Tribune reporter Lesley Mitchell contributed to this story.