Jobs Report May 2017: Growth slows, unemployment drops

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construction worker holding hardhat
Photo: Shutterstock

By Anthony P. Carnevale
Director, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

The Labor Department just released its jobs report for May 2017. Job growth was slower than in previous months, with only 138,000 jobs added, while the unemployment rate dropped lower to 4.3 percent.

This jobs report continues the longest running trend in jobs growth on record, but dissatisfaction with the American jobs machine continues with the voters. The number of job gains and slow wage increases continue to be sore spots. Average hourly earnings were up less than 0.2 percent compared to the previous month. This slow wage growth signals that employers are still holding the cards, and do not yet need to raise wages to keep workers. This evidence points to the fact that we are still in an employer’s market.

At a glance, this is how our numbers look:

  • The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent.
  • The underemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want to work but have given up looking, fell from 8.6 percent in April to 8.4 percent in May.
  • The participation rate, share of working-age people in the labor force, decreased to 62.7 percent in May from 62.9 percent in April.
  • 5.2 million Americans were working part-time for economic reasons, or working part-time but would rather have a full-time position.
  • Retailers decreased payrolls by 6,100.
  • Employment in financial activities was up 11,000 compared to a 14,000 increase in April.
  • Professional and business services jobs rose by 38,000.
  • Jobs in leisure and hospitality were up 31,000.
  • Government jobs declined by 9,000.
  • Healthcare jobs rose by 32,300.
  • There was an 11,000 increase in construction payrolls.
  • Manufacturing did not change much, with a decline of 1,000.

We’ve had 80 consecutive months of job growth, but many Americans are still waiting on their opportunity for a middle class livelihood. Much of the dissatisfaction with job growth has also resulted from the collapse of blue-collar manufacturing jobs; and we are still behind in the manufacturing recovery.

We continue to grow in the high skills service sectors such as professional and business services, healthcare, and education, with some favorable gains in construction and mining as well.

In the end, we are still doing okay on job growth, but, the issue going forward is job quality as measured by the wages issue.

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