Jobs increase by 223k in May, unemployment rate edges down to 3.8%

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in May, and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.8%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment continued to trend up in several industries, including retail trade, health care, and construction.

Household Survey Data

The unemployment rate edged down to 3.8% in May, and the number of unemployed persons declined to 6.1 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate was down by 0.5 percentage point, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 772,000. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5%), Blacks (5.9%), and Asians (2.1%) decreased in May. The jobless rates for adult women (3.3%), teenagers (12.8%), Whites (3.5%), and Hispanics (4.9%) changed little over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 1.2 million in May and accounted for 19.4% of the unemployed. During the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 476,000. (See table A-12.) Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.4%, changed little in May. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 4.9 million in May. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

The number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.5 million in May, was little different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.) Among the marginally attached, there were 378,000 discouraged workers in May, little changed from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)

Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in May had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in May, compared with an average monthly gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months. Over the month, employment continued to trend up in several industries, including retail trade, health care, and construction. (See table B-1.) In May, retail trade added 31,000 jobs, with gains occurring in general merchandise stores (+13,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+6,000).

Over the year, retail trade has added 125,000 jobs. Employment in health care rose by 29,000 in May, about in line with the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. Ambulatory health care services added 18,000 jobs over the month, and employment in hospitals continued to trend up (+6,000). Employment in construction continued on an upward trend in May (+25,000) and has risen by 286,000 over the past 12 months. Within the industry, nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 15,000 jobs over the month.

Employment in professional and technical services continued to trend up in May (+23,000) and has risen by 206,000 over the year. Transportation and warehousing added 19,000 jobs over the month and 156,000 over the year. In May, job gains occurred in warehousing and storage (+7,000) and in couriers and messengers (+5,000).

Manufacturing employment continued to expand over the month (+18,000). Durable goods accounted for most of the change, including an increase of 6,000 jobs in machinery. Manufacturing employment has risen by 259,000 over the year, with about three-fourths of the growth in durable goods industries. Mining added 6,000 jobs in May. Since a recent low point in October 2016, employment in mining has grown by 91,000, with support activities for mining accounting for nearly all of the increase.

In May, employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government. The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours in May. In manufacturing, the workweek decreased by 0.2 hour to 40.8 hours, and overtime edged down by 0.2 hour to 3.5 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained at 33.8 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.) In May, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 8 cents to $26.92.

Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 71 cents, or 2.7 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 7 cents to $22.59 in May. (See tables B-3 and B-8.) The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for March was revised up from +135,000 to +155,000, and the change for April was revised down from +164,000 to +159,000. With these revisions, employment gains in March and April combined were 15,000 more than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)

After revisions, job gains have averaged 179,000 over the last three months. 

The Employment Situation for June is scheduled to be released on Friday, July 6, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).

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