US adds 217,000 jobs in May, but jobless rate holds at 6.3%

06 June 2014 14:37 Source:ICIS News

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US economy added 217,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department said on Friday, an advance that was in line with expectations, but the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3%.

In its monthly report, the department said that job gains last month were in professional and business services, the health care industry, retail food services, and in transportation and warehousing.

Economists had predicted that May’s job gain would be in the 200,000 to 210,000 range, so the actual advance proved slightly better.

Employment growth in May was somewhat slower than in April when a downwardly revised 282,000 jobs were added.  The department had initially put April's jobs growth at 288,000.

The number of unemployed Americans in May was unchanged from the prior month at 9.8m.

But in addition to the count of officially unemployed, another 7.3m Americans were working part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work, and a further 2.1m people were “marginally attached to the workforce”, meaning that they wanted work but had given up trying to find a job.

Taken together, the total number of Americans unable to find full-time employment was 19.2m in May.

In addition, the report said that the nation’s labour force participation rate - the share of the population 16 years and older working or seeking work - remained at 62.8% last month.

The workforce participation rate was at 66% and higher in years prior to the 2008-2009 recession. 

As usual in a recession, the workforce participation rate declined during that 18-month recession period.  But unlike most post-war recessions and recoveries, the participation rate has failed to recover since the recession ended in June 2009 and it has continued to trend down.

Among the major economic sectors, the department said that there were 55,000 job gains in both the professional services industry and the health care area.

The food services sector gained 32,000 jobs last month, and 16,000 workers were added in the transportation and warehousing industry.

Manufacturing employment held steady in May from April.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By Joe Kamalick