Jobs, Unemployment Both up in May

I know, I know...right about now, you're looking at the national unemployment numbers for May and asking, "How is it even possible that we can gain a whole bunch of jobs and still have unemployment tick upward?" In fact, it's not only possible, it's easily explained. Welcome to the never dull, rarely exciting, totally mercurial world of the "recovery." Or, if you prefer, the Chronicle of the Essentially Unchanged.

175,000 new jobs for the month of May - figures released by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics - would seem to indicate "a reassuring sign that the American economy is moving forward" according to the Los Angeles Times' Don Lee.

"Moderate" job growth is enough for people to get excited enough to come into a WorkSource Center (like JVS's), sent out a bunch of new resumes, and do whatever else it takes to try to reenter the work force.

It's those previously idle job hunters - no longer discouraged - whose re-entrance into the labor market has likely caused the unemployment rate to move from 7.5% in April to 7.6% in May. Granted, this is not a huge percentage point bump (the nation has been hovering around 8% since January).

We're still talking about way too many people out of work: 11.8 total, 4.4 million of whom have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer and therefore qualify as long-term unemployed.

As for those newly added jobs...the good news is there are a lot of them. The not-so-good news is that many of them aren't particularly high-paying. The restaurant and drinking industries are among the more steadily growing industries, adding 38,000 jobs in May and 337,000 over the past year. As Lee notes, that figure exceeds the total number of healthcare jobs added over the same period.

Add in retail jobs (27,700 new jobs) and temporary employment (25,600) and you've accounted for more than half of those 175,000 new jobs.

"It is worth noting that the job growth reported in these sectors is more an indication of the weakness of the labor market than the type of jobs being generated by the economy," writes Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. "The economy always creates bad jobs, but in a strong labor market workers don’t take them."

Federal employees are continuing to feel the effects of the national budget cutbacks with 14,000 jobs lost in May and 45,000 lost over the past few months.

Lee's article is worth perusing, as is the breakdown of the BLS' monthly employment situation summary.

Baker highlights an interesting facet of the people who are getting joining the labor force. We'll tell you more about that in an upcoming JVSWorks post.

Stay tuned!