Total employment in the U.S. grew by 69,000 positions in May and
unemployment grew for the first time in more than a year from 8.1
to 8.2 percent as nearly half a million high school and college
graduates entered the workforce. Revisions to April’s employment
numbers showed that just 77,000 jobs were added that month, rather
than the 115,000 first reported.
Healthcare, which has continued to be a stalwart of growth, was
the top-growing industry segment in May, adding 33,000 positions.
Close behind was transportation, where 20,000 passenger ground
transportation jobs were added. Wholesale trade and manufacturing
also both tended upward during the month, adding 16,000 and 12,000
On the whole, professional and business services were
essentially flat, but within that grouping, accounting and
bookkeeping services trimmed 14,000 positions in the post-tax
season. The losses were counteracted by gains in temporary help
services, 9,200, and computer systems design and related services,
5,300. The unemployment rate of people in management, professional,
or related occupations was down to 4.0 from 4.4 a year ago.
Some of the largest losses outside of accounting were services
to buildings and dwellings, 14,300, specialty trade contractors,
17,700, and amusement, gambling, and recreation, 16,600. Although
these losses were drawing down the total number of jobs gained in
May, it is worthwhile to note that they are seasonally adjusted
numbers in largely seasonal industries. In fact, in unadjusted
numbers, services to buildings and dwellings grew by 61,200,
specialty trade contractor by 96,500, and amusements, gambling, and
recreation by 75,800.
In total unadjusted numbers, 789,000 jobs were added in May,
largely being filled by students graduating high school and
college. Seasonally adjusted numbers are important in understanding
the month-to-month trends in total employment. Yet, they can give
the impression that doormen, carpenters, and blackjack dealers are
being laid off en masse. While some invariably are laid off in any
given month, in May their hiring was just not as robust as a
typically May, which is understandable in the current climate.
Europe’s economy is–at best–at a standstill, China is
decelerating, and the U.S. presidential election entered its
general phase with key issues regarding business regulation, and
fiscal and monetary policy being sharply debated. Despite these
uncertainties, employers are hiring for the crucial roles that need
to be filled. May’s report was not a glowing opus on the state of
the employment market, but it was far from a disaster. It will be
several months until a more definitively negative–or
positive–trend can emerge from an economic climate that continues
to be draped in a degree of uncertainty.