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In jobs report, mostly something to cheer
Economy » Employers added positions at consistent rate, but robust signs missing.
First Published Jun 07 2013 06:55 am • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:33 pm

Washington • The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May— a steady pace that shows some strength in the face of tax increases and government spending cuts if not enough to reduce still-high unemployment.

"In general, the economy is just puttering along," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist with MFR Inc., a consulting firm. "Companies can get by without hiring people, so they do."

At a glance

May another solid month for women in job market

Unemployment for adult women, those 20 and older, fell for the third time in four months, to 6.5 percent. Here are some details from the government’s report:

Percentage jobless May 2013 April 2013 May 2012

White: 6.7      6.7        7.4

Black:         13.5        13.2        13.6

Hispanic:           9.1          9.0        11.0

Asian.:           4.3          5.1          5.2


Adult men:           7.2          7.1          7.7

Adult women:           6.5          6.7          7.3

Teenagers:         24.5        24.1      24.4

20-24 years old:         13.2        13.1          13.0

25-54 years old:           6.4          6.4          7.1

55 and over:           5.3          5.5        6.5

Source: Labor Department

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Consumers themselves have been pretty upbeat nonetheless, according to recent polling data.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted May 31 to June 4, 39 percent of respondents said that the condition of the economy was very or fairly good, the highest share saying this since President Barack Obama took office and even since the recession officially began in December 2007.

Nearly half of respondents, 46 percent, rated the job market in their area as very or fairly good, with a third saying that they think their local job markets will improve over the next year. (The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.)

The unemployment rate last month rose to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent in April, the Labor Department said Friday. The rate rose because more people began looking for work, a healthy sign, but only about three-quarters found jobs.

Analysts said the less-than-robust job growth would likely lead the Federal Reserve to maintain the pace of its monthly bond purchases for a few more months. The bond purchases have been intended to ease long-term borrowing costs and lift stock prices.

Investors appeared pleased by the evidence that job growth remains steady. The Dow Jones industrial average finished up about more than 200 points.

Friday’s job figures provided further evidence of the U.S. economy’s resilience. The housing market is strengthening, auto sales are up and consumer confidence has reached a five-year peak. Stock prices are near record highs, and the budget deficit has shrunk.

The U.S. economy’s relative strength contrasts with Europe, which is gripped by recession, and Asia, where once-explosive economies are now struggling.

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Many analysts expect the U.S. economy to strengthen later this year.

"Today’s report has to be encouraging for growth in the second half of the year," said Dan Greenhaus, an analyst at BTIG LLC.

Employers have added an average of 155,000 jobs the past three months. But the May gain almost exactly matched the average increase of the previous 12 months: 172,000.

Reflecting a trend in recent months, many of the jobs added in May were lower-paying ones. That means they aren’t likely to fuel as much consumer spending and economic growth as higher-paying jobs that have disappeared.

Yet Americans appear to be more optimistic about their job prospects: 420,000 people started looking for work in May. As a result, the percentage of Americans 16 and older either working or looking for work rose to 63.4 percent from a 34-year low of 63.3 percent in April.

This is called the labor force participation rate. Higher participation can boost the unemployment rate. That’s because once people without a job start looking for one, they’re counted as unemployed.

Labor force participation has been falling since peaking at 67.3 percent in 2000. That’s partly the result of baby boomers retiring and dropping out of the work force.

The unemployment rate is derived from a survey of households. This survey found that more people started looking for work in May. Since some didn’t find jobs right away, the number of unemployed rose 101,000 to 11.7 million.

The job gain for the month is calculated from a separate survey of employers.

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