Jobless Rate in May at 6.3%; Private Firms Claim to Create 216K Jobs

WASHINGTON —U.S. unemployment was 6.3% in May, unchanged from the month before, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.  Private companies claimed to create 216,000 new jobs, a separate BLS survey showed, while governments added 1,000.
The number of unemployed rose by 46,000 in May, to 9.8 million, while the number of employed workers increased by 245,000.  But of the 92 million people not in the workforce in May, 6.438 million actually want a job – almost 300,000 more than the month before.
Employment passed its pre-recession peak, but that’s not all good news, said Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute.
“The economy is healing, but far from healed . Almost 6-1/2 years have passed since the start of the recession, and in that time the working-age population grew by 14.5 million. We now need 7 million jobs to get back to health in the labor market given growth in the potential labor force since the start of the recession.  At the current pace of job growth, it will take nearly four more years to fill in that gap,” she explained.
Slightly more than one-third of the jobless have been out of work at least six months, meaning they’ve exhausted their federal jobless benefits.  The Senate’s Democratic majority tried several times to extend those benefits, but GOP filibusters thwarted those efforts. Benefits ended last Dec. 28.
The official jobless rate understates joblessness.  Including the jobless, those toiling part-time who really want full-time work and people who have become so discouraged that they’ve stopped looking for jobs, one of every eight workers (12.2 percent) was unemployed or underemployed in May.  That’s virtually unchanged since the month before.
Factories added 10,000 jobs in May, to 12.099 million, with half that gain in cars and parts – balanced by a 4,900-job drop in food plants.  Construction added 6,000 jobs in May, to 6.004 million.  Half the gains were at residential specialty contractors.
But there were still 826,000 jobless factory workers (5.3 percent) and 747,000 jobless construction workers (8.6 percent) in May.  And construction union leaders frequently note that official data understate joblessness there, since a worker on the job for one day during the BLS survey week is counted as being on the job for the whole month.
Service firms claimed to add 198,000 jobs, but the big gains were in low-paying work: Retail trade (+12,500), temps (+14,300), social assistance (+21,300) and bars and restaurants (+31,700).
Local governments added 18,000 jobs in May, to 6.315 million.  That offset job cuts everywhere else in federal and state governments, plus cuts in local schools.