May's jobs numbers disappoint

A woman participates in a U.S. unemployment protest in Union Square on March 6, 2012 in New York City.

David Brancaccio: The big jobs report for the month is just in: The government recorded just 69,000 additional names on payrolls. That is much weaker than expected and fits into a picture of a U.S. economy that is barely treading water. A separate survey of households puts the unemployment rate for May at 8.2 percent, a slight increase from April.

Joining me live is Marketplace's Amy Scott. Amy, reading deeper what do you see?

Amy Scott: Well David, it get's worse. Listen to these revisions -- that disappointing report from last month is actually worse than we thought. The labor department says we only added 77,000 jobs in April, not 115,000. And it revised March downward too. So now we're looking at seven months in a row at sluggish job growth. And the number of people part time who would rather be working full time grew by a few hundred thousand to 8.1 million people.

Brancaccio: But back to the headline figure -- 69,000 additional jobs added when you just look at the non-farm payrolls. What do you think it's going to take to return the labor market back to something that might look like health?

Scott: Well a lot faster and more consistent job growth. We've been speaking to economists who've been saying we really need to see growth of about 200,000 to 250,000 jobs a month, every month, and that would have to last for the next seven years to get anything close to where we were before the recession. So this is pretty bad news. We were seeing that kind of growth actually at the beginning of the year, but in the last couple months it really has slowed down.

Brancaccio: Briefly though, any notes of encouragement at all in this May jobs report?

Scott: Well there was a slight uptick in the labor participation rate, which may reflect more people coming back to look for work, which is part of that slight rise in the unemployment rate to 8.2 percent. Healthcare and transportation saw some job increases, but really most industries stayed pretty flat.

Brancaccio: Marketplace's Amy Scott, thank you very much.

Scott: You're welcome.

 

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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