The Employment Situation in May

Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 83,000 in May and the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent. There are always bumps on the road to recovery, but the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years. 

While the private sector has added more than 2.1 million jobs over the past 15 months, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high and faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. The initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment – have contributed to solid employment growth overall this year, but this report is a reminder of the challenges that remain.  We are focused on promoting exports, reducing regulatory burdens and making the investments in education, research and development, and infrastructure that will grow our economy and create jobs.  We will continue to work with Congress to responsibly reduce the deficit and live within our means.

Overall payroll employment rose by 54,000 in May. Solid employment increases occurred in professional and business services (+44,000) and education and health services (+34,000). Sectors with employment declines included local government (-28,000), retail trade (-8,500), and manufacturing (-5,000). Despite the decline this month, manufacturing has added 238,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010, the best period of manufacturing job growth in over a decade.

The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision.  Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

Private Payroll Employment Chart, June, 2011

Austan Goolsbee is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Your Federal Tax Receipt