U.S. Jobs Data Confirm Worst Fears: Employers Not Hiring Much
If you're thinking the labor market feels lousy, just released data from the federal government will bolster your suspicions.
The Labor Department said Friday that data from the nation's employers showed that they added only 69,000 jobs in May, far fewer than the 150,000 that analysts had expected, while a separate survey showed the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of percent to 8.2 percent.
Worse, the government revised downward the number of jobs added in both April and March, meaning that the rosy expectations some analysts had for a robust year of employment growth have yet to develop.
The news likely has many job-seekers and labor-market watchers feeling like it's deja vu all over again. That's because the same phenomenon hit the U.S. economy in the months leading up to the last two summers.
That led New York Times Washington Bureau Chief David Leonhardt to opine via Twitter shortly after the report's release: "This is the jobs report that economists -- and the White House -- feared. For 3rd straight year, the spring slowdown has arrived."
The downward tick couldn't come at a worse time for the long-term unemployed -- those who've been out of work for 6 months or more.
During the height of the recession, jobless workers in hard-hit states could expect to draw benefits for up to 99 weeks. But the federal government earlier this year rolled back that program, meaning the 137,000 people who crossed the six-month threshold in May are unlikely to see a weekly check. Last month's increase brings the total number of long-term unemployed to 5.4 million.
There was little, if any, good news in Friday's employment report. Even a slight 2/10 of a percent gain in the labor participation rate -- the percentage of working-age people in the labor force able and willing to work -- was just enough to merely offset the drop in April's rate to 63.6 percent.
While some industries added jobs -- including manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, which combined added about 48,000 positions -- those gains were partly offset by a cut of some 13,000 government-sector jobs.
The slow growth in jobs is bad news for those just entering the job market -- such as this year's batch of college grads. Analysts say the economy needs to create roughly 125,000 jobs a month just to keep the unemployment rate steady.
Reuters reported that the nation's level of employment is still 5 million jobs below where it was in December 2007, when the economy fell into recession.
What's more, a recent trend suggests that more workers are losing jobs. On Thursday, the government reported that first-time claims for jobless benefits rose for the fourth straight week. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 383,000.
The news was a worrisome sign that -- when combined with a revised report showing slower economic growth during the first three months of the year -- suggested that the recovery in the labor market is slowing.
For job seekers, that likely means longer search times for employment and increased uncertainty about the future.
It's also a troubling sign for President Obama, who's looking to keep his own job. The bad job numbers are likely to lend a boost to Mitt Romney's bid to unseat Obama in November's presidential election.
Shortly after Friday's employment report was released, Romney called the disappointing results "devastating," and said the data suggest that Obama's economic polices have failed.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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