According to new Department of Labor data released today, the U.S. unemployment rate rose from 5.0 to 5.5 percent in May, which was higher than the expected 0.1 percent jobless rate increase. It was also the largest jump in unemployment since 1986. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao put out a statement today, attempting to explain the jump. Her answer? Blame America’s youth:
Today’s increase in the unemployment rate reflects the fact that unusually large numbers of students and graduates are entering the labor market.
Chao is just trying to hide bad news. These unemployment numbers are not good, nor are they normal. As Center for American Progress Director of the American Worker Project David Madland told ThinkProgress, unemployment isn’t just for young people:
The unemployment rate for prime-working age adults – people from 25 to 54 – also increased in May, rising from 4.2 percent to 4.4 percent. In addition, the share of this age group that was employed fell slightly from 79.6 percent to 79.5 percent.
Similarly, Jared Bernstein at EPI noted that “even if we take teenagers out of the data, unemployment still rises from 4.5% to 4.8%, a considerable 0.3% increase, and well above the 4.0% adult rate of one year ago.”
New workers are always entering the market. A healthy economy can absorb them; a Bush economy can’t.