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Job Growth Was Slow And Steady In May, But Jobless Rate Rose

Spencer Platt
Getty Images

There was modest job growth once again in May even as the nation's unemployment rate ticked up, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

According to BLS:

-- 175,000 jobs were added to public and private payrolls last month, slightly more than economists had expected.

-- The jobless rate rose to 7.6 percent from April's 7.5 percent. That rate can rise even as more jobs are added because the size of the labor force has also gone up.

We'll have more from the report, which was released at 8:30 a.m. ET, as the morning continues. Hit your refresh button to be sure you're seeing our latest updates.

Update at 9:40 a.m. ET. White House Reaction:

"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further confirmation that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression," says Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, in a statement sent out by the White House.

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. Housing, Consumer Spending Support Growth:

"With a gain of 175,000 jobs in May, the resilient labor market sustained moderate job gains this spring," Conference Board economist Kathy Bostjancic says in an email to reporters. "The [federal] sequester, along with the negative impact from slowing global trade, are being offset by the continued contribution from the revival in the housing market and stronger consumption."

According to BLS, there were 27,700 jobs added at retailers last month. Construction firms added 7,000 jobs. "Professional and business services" firms increased employment by 57,000.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Republican Reaction:

"We're happy that a few Americans were able to find jobs in the last month, but millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans are still waiting for the recovery President Obama promised years ago. This is the status quo — well below where our economy needs to be to grow," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says in a statement.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Government Was Only A Slight Drag:

While private employers added an estimated 178,000 jobs to their payrolls in May, government agencies reduced their workforces by 3,000. Economists have been watching the government data closely to see how much of an effect federal spending cuts are having on the economy.

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Why The Jobless Rate Went Up:

As we said earlier, the jobless rate can go up even as employers say they've taken on more workers because the size of the labor force has increased more than the number of jobs that were added to payrolls.

That appears to be just what happened in May.

According to BLS:

-- There were 420,000 more people in the labor force last month than in April.

-- One reason for the growth was that fewer people were counted among the ranks of "discouraged workers." The agency says 780,000 people who wanted to work had given up looking because they didn't think they would find jobs. That was down from 835,000 in April.

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. April Job Growth Revised Down, March Revised Up Again:

In its initial report about job growth in April, BLS said 165,000 jobs had been added to payrolls that month. Now, it says the increase was 149,000.

But it has also revised up — for the second time — the increase in March. Initially, it said that 88,000 jobs were added that month. In its second swipe at that figure, BLS said the increase was 138,000. Now, it says there were 142,000 more jobs in March than in February.

Our original post — "What Will Jobs Report Say? Slow Growth Is Best Bet":

Ahead of Friday morning's much-anticipated report about the nation's unemployment rate and how many jobs were (hopefully) added to payrolls in May, economists are expecting to hear:

-- That the jobless rate was unchanged from April's 7.5 percent.

-- That there were about 170,000 more jobs, a modest increase.

In other words, as NPR's Yuki Noguchi said on Morning Edition, it's likely to be a more-of-the-same kind of report.

Bloomberg News says U.S. stock futures are little changed as the 8:30 a.m. ET release of the employment news approaches — a sign that the markets are also thinking that the report will be yet another sign that job growth remains sluggish.

A month ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that 165,000 jobs were added to payrolls in April (a figure that could be revised in Friday's report).

We'll update with news from the May report once it's released.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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