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Friday, June 02, 2017

Job Growth Slows Sharply in May as Unemployment Hits New Low

Dean Baker:

Job Growth Slows Sharply in May as Unemployment Hits New Low: The weaker job growth in recent months means that we will see a big uptick in productivity in the second quarter.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in May, a new low for the recovery and the lowest level since 2001. However, this decline in the unemployment rate was the result of people leaving the labor market, as the number of people reported as employed in the household survey actually fell, with the overall employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) dropping from 60.2 percent in April to 60.0 percent in May.

The establishment survey showed further evidence of a weakening labor market as the pace of job growth slowed in May to 138,000. There were also substantial downward revisions to the prior two months’ job growth numbers, which brought the average for the last three months to just 121,000. ...

The situation in the household survey was mixed. The drop in employment was among prime-age workers, with the EPOP falling from 78.6 percent to 78.4 percent, with both men and women seeing small declines. On the plus side, the unemployment rate for African American men over 20 fell 0.8 percentage points to 6.5 percent, the lowest level since April of 2000. However this was entirely due to men dropping out of the labor force as employment actually fell.

All the duration measures of unemployment rose modestly in May. The quit rate rose modestly to 11.7 percent, which is still below pre-recession peaks and well below the peaks hit in 2000. Involuntary part-time employment fell for the fourth consecutive month to a new low for the recovery. It is now only slightly larger relative to the size of the labor force than before the recession. Voluntary part-time rose by 320,000 but is still slightly below the peak hit in November.
The summary data continue to show little evidence for the story that the labor market is increasingly benefiting the most educated workers. While the unemployment rate for college educated workers edged down by 0.1 percentage point, so did the EPOP. It now stands 0.4 percentage points below its year-ago level. In terms of EPOPs, those with high school degrees and less than high school were the biggest gainers in the last year.

There is certainly little evidence in this report that the labor market is overheating or is likely to do so any time in the foreseeable future.

See also Bill McBride at Calculated Risk (here too):

A Disappointing Employment ReportThe headline jobs number was below expectations, and there were combined downward revisions to the previous two months.   Is this is slowdown in hiring a short term issue, part of the normal business cycle, or due to a Trump Slump? My view is this slowdown in hiring is mostly part of the normal business cycle (my expectation was job growth would slow further this year). There was still some good news - especially with the unemployment rate falling to 4.3% (lowest since 2001), and U-6 falling to 8.4% (lowest since 2007).  But overall this was a disappointing report. ...

    Posted by on Friday, June 2, 2017 at 10:36 AM in Economics, Unemployment | Permalink  Comments (72)


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