The economy didn’t gain as many jobs in May as it did in April, but the number was still pretty good. The U.S. unemployment rate stayed the same as in April, its lowest level in 5-1/2 years.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the May unemployment rate was 6.3 percent, the same as in April. Both the April and May rates were down from 6.7 percent in March. The private sector netted 216,000 nonfarm job gains in May while local, state, and federal governments netted 1,000, for a total net gain of 217,000.
The BLS revised its job numbers for April from 288,000 to 282,000, showing that the economy gained 6,000 fewer jobs than it had previously estimated. The U.S. economy has gained over 200,000 jobs per month since February. Job gains were well below 200,000 in December (84,000) and January (144,000), mainly because of the unusually harsh winter weather.
The private sector has gained nonfarm jobs for 51 consecutive months since the Great Recession. The U.S. economy has now regained all of the jobs that it lost during the recession (-8.7 million) and then some, for a total of 8.8 million.
At 55,000, the most notable May net job gains were again in the professional and business services industry. Temporary help services (“temp workers”) gained 14,000 of those. The industry as a whole has netted an average of 55,000 jobs per month over the past year.
Next in line for the most notable was the healthcare industry, with 34,000 job gains. Much of the industry’s job growth over the past few years, even throughout the Great Recession, is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and to provisions in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as well.
Employment in the construction industry continued to trend upward in May, though only slightly with 6,000 net job gains. Construction has gained 188,000 jobs over the past year, with nearly three-fourths of the gain occurring in the past six months.
Over 100 American construction companies have pledged to hire more than 100,000 veterans within the next five years.
Manufacturing, an industry that economists consider to be a gauge of labor market health, gained 10,000 jobs in May. The industry has gained a monthly average of 9,200 jobs so far in 2014.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (19.2 percent) followed by blacks (11.5), Hispanics (7.7), adult men (5.9), adult women (5.7), whites (5.4) and Asians (5.3, not seasonally adjusted). Unemployment rates showed little or no change from April for all groups but Hispanics and Asians. Hispanics experienced a 0.4 percent increase in May while Asians experienced a 0.4 decrease.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 3.2 percent unemployment rate in May, down slightly from 3.3 in April. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a 9.1 percent rate, up from 8.9.
The May unemployment rate of 6.3 percent was the lowest since September 2008, when it was 6.1 percent and beginning to skyrocket toward 10.0 (the recessionary high).
The May rate stayed the same as the April rate, partly because thousands of workers left the workforce in April and didn’t return in May. Some left due to retirement while others left because they gave up on job searching. (More information about the latter, the so-called “discouraged workers,” is below.)
For the BLS to count workers as unemployed, they must be actively seeking jobs in the four weeks preceding the count. The BLS counted 9.8 million workers as unemployed in May, also unchanged from April. The number of unemployed workers has declined by 1.9 million over the past year, while the unemployment rate has declined by 1.2 percentage points.
The count of unemployed workers (and the unemployment rate) do not include those who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours. The number of involuntarily part-timers was 7.3 million in May, down from 7.5 million in April.
The average workweek for both part-timers and full-timers was 34.5 hours in May, the same as in April. Average hourly earnings rose by 5 cents to $24.38. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.1 percent in a year.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in May was 2.1 million, down from 2.2 million in April. Among the marginally-attached, 697,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs — at least not for them. The number of discouraged workers was down from the 783,000 that the BLS initially reported for April. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, was 3.4 million in May, down from 3.5 million in April. These workers accounted for 34.6 percent of the unemployed. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
Since the beginning of this year, congressional Republicans have blocked passing a bill to further extend federal unemployment benefits into 2014. See the blog “Unemployment Benefit Extensions 2013 – Updated for 2014” for details.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA.
For more details about the May 2014 unemployment rate and related matters, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the June unemployment rate and job numbers on July 3. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Certain figures in this unemployment rate report were rounded and/or seasonally adjusted by the BLS, and are subject to revision by same (based on additional data that was not initially available). The unemployment rate chart pictured above was provided by the BLS.