Unemployment just fell for all the wrong reasons

Thousands of people gave up on work.

CREDIT: iStock
CREDIT: iStock

The economy added 138,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 4.3 percent, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs added was less than the 185,000 analysts had expected.

The unemployment rate is now at a 16-year low, but it appears to have fallen for mostly negative reasons last month. Both the share of workers either employed or actively seeking work and the share of people working out of all those of prime working age both dropped. 608,000 people dropped out of the labor force between April and May.

The past two months of job growth were also lower than originally reported, with March revised down to just 50,000 jobs added and April down to 174,000.

The share of unemployed people fell by 195,000 in May, bringing the total reduction since the start of this year to 774,000. The unemployment rate has fallen by a 0.5 percentage point since then. But as May’s numbers show, not all of them are finding jobs; some are giving up on their search.

Job gains in May were driven by a 24,000 increase in health care, a 38,000 increase in professional and business services, and a 30,000 increase in food and bars. Mining — and industry President Trump has specifically said he would help revive — added 6,600 jobs last month and has risen by 47,000 since a low point last October, but most of the jobs have been in support activities, not direct mining itself. Construction added 11,000 jobs in May, while manufacturing lost 1,000.

Retail continued its recent streak of losing jobs, declining by 6,100. It’s now lost jobs for five months straight.

Wages rose by 4 cents in May, bringing the annual growth rate to 2.5 percent. Wage growth has been basically flat since the recession despite the economy continuing to add jobs.