UPDATE, 7:50 AM PT: After the release of the latest jobs numbers, President Joe Biden said that “we’re on the right track,” as he called for Congress to pass an ambitious economic agenda of infrastructure spending and economic aid to families.
“Now is the time to accelerate the process we’ve been making,” Biden said. “Now is the time to build on the foundation we’ve laid, because while our progress is undeniable, it is not assured.”
The 559,000 jobs added in May were a sign that hiring is picking up, but they fell short of expectations of greater growth. Biden said that the recovery would see some “bumps along the way.”
“We can’t reboot the world’s largest economy like flipping on a light switch,” Biden said.
PREVIOUSLY: Hiring picked up in May, with employers adding 559,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 5.8%. Yet the encouraging signs for the economy, very robust by ordinary standards, still were short of expectations of a million-jobs-a-month boom as Americans get vaccinated, restrictions are lifted and the country begins to return to normal.
President Joe Biden is expected to make a statement about the figures on Friday morning and call for passage of massive bills to finance infrastructure and boost workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the jobs gains were particularly noticeable in leisure and hospitality, which added 292,000 jobs, as well as significant gains in public and private education and health care and social assistance. Those are good signs that people are getting out and getting back to their previous routines. The unemployment rate fell from 6.1% to 5.8%.
There also were increases in motion picture production and music recording, adding 14,000 jobs, while employment in information industries rose by 29,000. That is still down by 193,000. Overall the economy is still down more than 7.5 million jobs.
The labor force participation rate was little changed at 61.6%, having been in a range of 61.4% and 61.7% since June 2020.
There had been some expectation that the figure would be closer to 700,000 jobs added, signaling a summer boom, but the recovery appears to be something a little more modest. The May hiring figures are less than even in March, when 785,000 jobs were added. Republicans have seized on the less-than-expected results to contend that enhanced unemployment benefits, which extend through September, are no longer needed and may even be keeping people from rejoining the workforce. Republican governors have been cutting off those benefits before they expire on Sept. 6.
Some employers have reported difficulty in finding workers to fill positions, although a number of factors may be at work.
Average hourly earnings increased by 15 cents to $30.33, after rising 21 center in April. With each report, the BLS typically revises figures for previous months as additional data comes in. They did so again with Friday’s report, revising the March and April figures with a combined additional 27,000 jobs.
Binyamin Appelbaum, lead writer on business and economics for The New York Times editorial board, tweeted, “My main takeaway from this jobs report (as from the last one) is that you can’t just flip a switch and turn an economy back on. Recovery is messy and it’s just going to take more time than anyone would like.”