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The Five Numbers You Need to Know From the May Jobs Report

Woof. May was a dog of a month for hiring.


Woof. May was a dog of a month for hiring, according to the latest jobs numbers released by the government today. After an optimistic start to the year, it’s clear after several disappointing results that the U.S. labor market is still stagnant. Businesses, concerned about Europe’s ability to contain its financial crisis and the slowing economies of major developing countries like China, Brazil and India, appear reluctant to hire. Let’s dig into the numbers.

69,000. The net number of non-farm jobs created in May. It's the lowest number of the year, and with newly updated measures of jobs growth in March and April also revised downward, it enunciates the slow growth in the labor market.


13,000. The number of government jobs lost. Continuing the ongoing trend of moderate hiring increases in the private sector being offset by cuts to public employees, especially teachers, this month’s jobs report emphasizes how little the government has been able to do to bolster the labor market during the recession. With the potential for even more budget cuts at the end of the year, this number is likely to increase.

14.8 percent. The best measure of job market health is the “U-6,” which includes people who are unemployed and looking for work as well as those who have been forced to work part-time or who have given up on finding jobs. It increased by .3 percent in May, the first time it has increased in nearly a year.

461,000. The increase in the number of women employed part-time in May. While we don’t want hiring concentrated in part-time work, the news is part of a strange silver lining: The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s survey of households about employment, rather than the more widely known survey of businesses, reported an increase in employment of 422,000. The discrepancy between the two numbers is partially explained by the way statisticians adjust the results of their surveys for seasonal affects, but the difference is worth watching in the months ahead.

2 million. We’re on track to add this many jobs over the year if we maintain the pace of hiring set in the first five months of 2012. That’s about as well as we did last year, and speaks to the fact that we’re not getting out of this hole fast enough. The one good thing about this news? It might be the kick in the pants needed to get more action from the government and businesses to tackle this issue.

Chart via Calculated Risk

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