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U.S. Economy Adds 559,000 Jobs in May


After a disappointing April jobs report, the United States economy performed slightly better on the jobs front, as 559,000 jobs were added last month, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report on Friday.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, a drastic improvement from a year ago, but still well above pre-pandemic levels. An alternative measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons edged lower to 10.2%.

While May’s job gains were much better than April, they still fell short of economists’ projections of 671,000 jobs. The stock market, however, has reacted positively to the report. Futures rose, with investors betting that the modest job gains might keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy.

“Economists have been a little overly optimistic about the pace of which we’re moving here. It takes a while for people to get jobs,” Kathy Jones, head of fixed income at Charles Schwab, told CNBC. “For the stock market, there’s no reason for the Fed to move too quickly, and therefore that’s also good news for the bond market.”

The labor force participation rate, a closely watched metric, edged lower to 61.6% as the size of the group fell by 53,000 with more than 100 million American workers remaining on the sidelines.

Employers, especially those in leisure and hospitality industry, continue to cite a labor shortage as a critical factor in why more hiring is not happening. Some have attributed the situation to generous unemployment benefits as well as child care issues and continuing fears about the coronavirus as obstacles to filling the eight million vacant positions.

The services industry took the biggest hit from the pandemic lockdowns and continued to lead the job creation in May. Leisure and hospitality added 292,000 positions, with the bulk of 186,000 coming in restaurants and bars.

Public and private education also saw the benefits of reopening, adding 144,000 across the board. Other gains came from health care and social assistance (46,000), information (29,000), manufacturing (23,000), transportation and warehousing (23,000), wholesale trade (20,000) and professional and business services (35,000). Construction lost 20,000 positions while retail also was down 6,000.

The significant drop in COVID-19 cases coupled with an increasingly vaccinated U.S. population has economists optimistic the economy will continue its recovery. However, some warn that true recovery might not occur until the fall.

“It’s probably going to be a bumpy ride from here till September,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics told The New York Times.

About the Author

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

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