With slight job growth that greatly missed expectations, the national unemployment rate ticked up a notch, to 8.2 percent, in May, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
According to Labor's report, the United States added 82,000 private-sector jobs last month, but lost 13,000 jobs in government, for a total nonfarm employment increase of 69,000 jobs. Additionally, April's job numbers were revised down, from 115,000 to 77,000.
"Just as they did last spring, when there was a massive slowdown in hiring, businesses have turned cautious," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., who had said it would take a year to 18 months for companies to significantly increase hiring. "Last year, by the fall, the economy turned around, but will it happen again? I just don't know."
Naroff said May marks the third consecutive month of disappointing employment gains, following a winter mini-boom, when an average of 226,000 jobs were added per month in the first quarter of the year. That unexpected boost ended in March with the slim addition of 120,000 jobs.
"One month is disappointing, two months is a warning sign and three months is a trend — and it's not a trend I like to see," Naroff said. "I don't know why businesses would suddenly stop hiring when households are increasing their spending. It just doesn't make any sense."
Industry sectors that had the most significant increases in employment were transportation and warehousing, with 36,000 jobs; health care, with 33,000 jobs; and manufacturing, with 12,000 jobs. Private-sector employment took the steepest fall in construction, which shed 28,000 jobs in May. Professional and business services lost 1,000 jobs, after leading employment growth in April by adding 62,000 jobs.
The number of those jobless for 27 weeks or more — who now make up 42.8 percent of the unemployed — rose from 5.1 million in April to 5.4 million in May. Labor reported that initial unemployment claims, a proxy for layoffs, rose by 10,000 to 383,000 — the fourth straight weekly increase.