Unemployment drops to 4.3 percent in May

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The U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, the Labor Department reported today.

The government said the job figure was well below the average monthly gain of 181,000 during the prior 12-month period. Job gains occurred in health care and mining.

Reuters reported that job growth is slowing as the labor market nears full employment and said the decline in the jobless rate was attributable to people leaving the labor force.

“The weak job growth number isn’t a disaster because it still keeps up with population growth,” Paul Diggle, senior economist at Aberdeen Asset Management, told Reuters. “Today’s numbers probably won’t stop the Fed from raising rates this month. But they might well influence what happens next.”

The government revised its March and April job totals downward by a total of 66,000. The April figure declined from an originally reported 211,000 to 174,000. The March figure fell from 79,000 to 50,000.

In May, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $26.22. During the past year average hourly earnings have risen by 63 cents, or 2.5 percent.

Among the unemployed, the government said the number of job losers and people who completed temporary jobs declined by 211,000 to 3.3 million in May. The number of long-term unemployed (people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged during the month at 1.7 million and they accounted for 24 percent of the unemployed.

The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 62.7 percent in May, but the government said it has shown no clear trend during the past 12 months. The employment-population ratio edged down to 60 percent in May.

The number of people employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 5.2 million in May. Those people, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut or they were unable to find a full-time job.

In May 1.5 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 238,000 from a year earlier. The data are not seasonally adjusted.

Those people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job at some time during the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work during the four weeks that preceded the survey.

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