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May job numbers disappoint, experts say

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Businesses added a total of 38,000 positions in May, according to Wednesday's ADP National Employment Report, with the gains concentrated in small and midsized companies, which added 27,000 and 30,000 jobs, respectively. Companies with more than 499 employees, meanwhile, shed 19,000 positions, according to Automatic Data Processing Inc., a Roseland-based payroll services and business outsourcing company.

The slow-growth employment was "not entirely surprising," according to ADP's announcement. "In the first quarter, GDP grew at only a 1.8 percent rate and only about 2.25 percent over the last four quarters," less than most economists' estimates of the economy's potential growth rate.

A New Jersey economist also was unimpressed with the numbers.

"The May numbers are not only on the low end of the spectrum, but they're actually off the table," according to Patrick O'Keefe, director of economic research at the Roseland CPA firm J.H. Cohn LLP.

At the end of May, there were about 1.4 million more jobs nationally compared to May 2010, he added, but characterized the pace of job creation as below consensus expectations.

"We're still up," according to O'Keefe. "But we're not moving any faster."

The changes in small, medium and large companies are "too small to call a trend," he said, since month-to-month changes "fall well below a level of statistical significance."

May employment numbers for New Jersey have not been released, but O'Keefe was a bit more optimistic about the state's trends.

"The good news in New Jersey is that the unemployment insurance data trends are mildly encouraging," he said. "Weekly continuing claims through mid-May were at the lowest level in three years. So there are indications that the labor market in New Jersey has bottomed out, and appears to be climbing the ladder."

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