There was some good news on the economy this week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 244 thousand jobs were added in April, the biggest monthly increase since May. The unemployment rate increased from 8.8% to 9.0% due to a surge in people re-entering the labor market.

June WTI crude oil futures closed at $98.45/barrel on Friday, down $15.07 from Monday’s close. The price of gasoline is important to cattlemen. High gasoline prices are a drag on meat demand. The national average gasoline price reached $4 per gallon this week. Barring a rebound in crude oil, gasoline prices should start dropping soon.

Fed cattle prices were lower for the second week in a row and boxed beef prices were lower for the fourth consecutive week. The outlook for meat demand is not as bright as it was a month ago.

On Friday morning the choice boxed beef carcass cutout value was $177.42/cwt, down $5.46 from last week. The select carcass cutout was down $5.43 from the previous Friday to $171.78 per hundred pounds of carcass weight.

The 5-area daily weighted average price for slaughter steers sold through Thursday of this week on a live weight basis was $115.09/cwt, down $1.72 from last week. Steers sold on a dressed weight basis this week averaged $184.10/cwt, $2.83 lower than the week before. This week in 2010 the average 5-area live price for steers was $99.53/cwt and the carcass price was $160.27/cwt.

This week’s cattle slaughter totaled 657,000 head, up 6.8% from the week before, but down 2.8% compared to the same week last year.

Cash bids for feeder cattle around the country this week were mostly $3 lower to $5 higher than last week. Oklahoma City prices were steady to $2 higher on stocker cattle and steady to $3 higher on feeder cattle with price ranges for medium and large frame #1 steers: 400-450# $161-$172.50, 450-500# $154-$166, 500-550# $146.75-$157.50, 550-600# $146-$153.50, 600-650# $140-$154, 650-700# $133-$145, 700-750# $133.75-$137, 750-800# $129.25-$138, 800-900# $123.50-$135 and 900-1000# $115-$123/cwt.

The June fed cattle futures contract ended the week at $109.85/cwt, down $3.50 from last week’s close. The August contract closed out the week at $111.57/cwt, down $4.13 from the previous Friday. October settled at $116.95 and December ended the week at $119.02/cwt.

USDA’s latest crop progress report estimates 13% of the corn acres was planted by May 1, down from 66% planted on that date last year and a 5-year average of 40% planted. Despite concerns over late planting, the May corn futures contract lost 71 cents this week to close at $6.8275/bushel. July corn ended the week at $6.8625, down 70 cents from the previous Friday. December corn settled at $6.4025/bu.