Quick Takes | Jobs and Unemployment

Underlying labor market trend still murky after May jobs report

Today’s employment report showed 69,000 jobs were added in May. After a strange winter and early spring – where unseasonably warm winter weather led to unusually strong job growth in January and February that was “paid back” with weaker job growth in March and April – even the May report may not yet be providing a clear picture of the underlying trend. The May jobs figures are likely still being weighed down by seasonal issues, as evidenced by a drop in construction and in leisure and hospitality, so this month’s numbers should not yet be read as a sign of a slowdown. Even so, payroll employment growth is nowhere near strong enough to get us to full employment anytime soon.

The household survey was somewhat more optimistic. Though the unemployment rate rose, it was due to the fact that more than 600,000 people entered the labor force, boosting the labor force participation rate by two-tenths of a percent.  While there is a substantial amount of variability month-to-month in the labor force participation numbers (and this could simply be a correction for last month’s drop), it is nevertheless a step in the right direction.

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