Good news, bad news in monthly job totals

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS IN MONTHLY JOB TOTALS…. After a crushing recession that created an unemployment crisis, it’s tempting to feel good about the turnaround in the monthly job totals. Whereas the economy was hemorrhaging jobs a year ago at this time, we now have our heads above water.

But given expectations, today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely strike many as disappointing.

Employers added 431,000 nonfarm jobs nationwide in May, the biggest increase in a single month since the recession, the Labor Department said Friday. But the bulk of the growth was in government jobs, driven by hiring for the Census, and private-sector job growth was weak.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent nationwide, from 9.9 percent in April, the department said. […]

The net gain in government jobs was 390,000, while the private sector added only 41,000.

There were numerous reports going into the day suggesting the overall total would top 500,000 new jobs, and that private sector job growth would total about 200,000. The report showed the economy falling short on both counts. Indeed, growth in private payrolls slowed to its lowest point since last year.

What’s more, the new monthly total comes with a key caveat: census jobs. In May, the Census Bureau’s hiring reached its peak, inflating the total monthly numbers to a point that will almost certainly go unmatched the rest of the year.

And with stimulus money reaching its end, and fewer Census jobs being added, the economy will have to rely on private-sector hiring to keep the economic recovery going. In May, this sector of the economy was underwhelming.

Here’s hoping this report sends a very loud signal to policymakers: more investment in job creation is necessary.

The job numbers for March and April were revised, but didn’t change much. While previous estimates showed the economy adding 230,000 jobs in March, the revised total was a gain of 208,000. April’s 290,000 new jobs remained the same.

Once again, here’s the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction — red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

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