The economy added 138,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department reported Friday, signaling a possible slowdown in job growth.
May’s jobs numbers were a decrease from April, when the economy added 174,000 jobs. Job growth for both months was below the average monthly gain of 181,000 jobs over the previous year.
The totals since January leave job growth under President Donald Trump well under the million he claimed credit for yesterday when announcing U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
But unemployment fell to 4.3 percent, down slightly from April’s 4.4 percent, indicating that the job market remains tight and virtually guaranteeing that the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee will hike interest rates when it meets June 13-14.
Eric Winograd, an economist at Alliance Bernstein, called the report a "disappointment," and said it was "clearly soft in every material respect relative to expectations." But he said he didn’t consider it "soft enough to cause a fundamental rethink of the economic outlook."
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, in a written statement, emphasized the low unemployment number, saying it was "the lowest it has been since May 2001, dropping 0.5 percentage points since President Trump took office." Acosta did not mention that the dip in unemployment was at least partly due to a 0.2 percent decrease in labor force participation, to 62.7 percent, maintaining the past year’s pattern of near-historic lows.
Acosta also stated that "more than 600,000 private-sector jobs have been created since Inauguration Day." President Donald Trump yesterday claimed that he had created more than a million private-sector jobs, apparently by including job-growth figures from November and December, before he became president.
Elise Gould, a senior economist with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said the jobs report "shows a recovery continuing to chug along, but with labor force participation still weak and wage growth below target levels, it is abundantly clear that we have a ways to go before we reach genuine full employment."
Average hourly private-sector earnings were up 2.5 percent over the previous year, in line with slow productivity growth and tepid annual gains over the previous two years.
Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted the creation of about 185,000 jobs, an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent and an over-the-year increase in hourly earnings of 2.6 percent. The payroll company ADP estimated Thursday based on its own records that private-sector job growth in May was 253,000.