Explaining Southern California's economy

May jobs report: The U.S. economy just ground to a halt

Job Seekers Look For Employment Opportunities At Career Fair

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Where's my recovery? The May jobs report from the Labor Department is basically terrible and the unemployment rate is back to 8.2 percent.

Well, it's just completely awful.

The Labor Department just released its May jobs report, and the numbers are even worse than the pessimists projected. We added only 69,000 jobs in May. Economists had expected 150,000, and the ADP report, which came out earlier this week, anticipated 133,000.

The unemployment rate moved up, to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent. What's worse, the data for April was revised down, reversing a trend of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revising the previous month's numbers up. In April, we actually added only 77,000 jobs, versus the originally reported — and rather disappointing — 115,000.

The only positive news in this dismal May report is that the labor participation rate edged up a tiny amount, to 63.8 percent. It's still at a low level not seen since the early 1980s. And people dropping out of the workforce — basically giving up on finding a job or deciding to wait out a bad economy — is no longer keeping a lid on the unemployment rate moving back up. 

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Get ready for some depressing May job numbers

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

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A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. The Labor Department will release its May jobs report tomorrow morning.

The Labor Department is scheduled to release its monthly national jobs report at 8:30 a.m Eastern Time tomorrow morning, and I'll be on my usual dawn patrol to parse the data when it hits. 

But in the meantime, here's a preview. The Bloomberg consensus of economists anticipates that 150,000 new jobs were added in May. That would be a moderate improvement over April’s 115,000 (which could be revised up, if the trend continues from the past few months). But it’s still well below the 200,000-plus level that we’d like to see, coming out of a strong fourth quarter in 2011 and an optimistic first few months in 2012. And it’s far below the 300,000-plus (really more like 400,000) we need to bring the unemployment rate down and restore the millions of jobs lost in the Great Recession.

The ADP report — which comes out before the BLS report — is also pretty weak, at 133,000 jobs added in May.

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Is the Labor Department missing small business jobs?

 

So by now everybody knows about the disappointing March jobs report from the BLS. Marketplace's Heidi Moore commented on "The Madeleine Brand Show" this morning that the glass is still half full. She stressed that we were promised a slow recovery, and we're getting a a slow recovery.

But she also raised the scary prospect of structural unemployment, which essentially means that we have workers who can't get a job because the skills they have are either no longer needed in the volumes they were before the financial crisis; or because they aren't living in a place where their skills can be put to use. You could add to that the disappearance of whole career options — not much demand for typesetters these days — and you get a new definition of "full" employment, maybe something more like 6 percent than 4-5 percent.

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Get ready for tomorrow's jobs report

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

Time to take a crack at handicapping tomorrow's official March jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you'll recall, February came in at 227,000 and the national unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent. That was good but not great; the economy really needs to add close to 400,000 jobs each month to reduce the rate to a pre-crisis level. But for the moment, adding 200,000-plus jobs each month shows that the economy is slowly recovering and expanding, even if GDP growth is only running at 2-2.5 percent.

There's a wrinkle to the March numbers — the data is usually released in the first Friday of the month, and this time around Friday is a holiday for the stock market (Good Friday). This basically gives traders a long weekend to digest the news.

Anyway, to the handicapping! The ADP report came out yesterday and said the economy added 209,000 in March. The Bloomberg consensus — a survey of 77 economists — says the number will be 205,000. Business Insider has been crunching various datasets of late and comes up with 193,000, a somewhat alarming figure given that we want to see 200,000 at least to support the idea that GDP is puttering along at around 2-2.5 percent, down from the 3 percent we saw in the fourth quarter of last year, but not the discouraging sub-2-percent pace we witnessed in much of 2011.

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February jobs report: Better than January?

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will release its February jobs report on Friday. The January report was better than expected, with the country adding 243,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to 8.3 percent. The big question for February is, "Will the improving trend continue?"

Chances are good. The ADP report — which hasn't been all that reliable a predictor of the BLS data of late — came out today and said that the economy had added 216,000 new jobs, barely beating the Bloomberg consensus, which expects a nearly identical 215,000. 

Meanwhile, Business Insider engaged in a very elaborate piece of analysis and came up with — wait for it — 285,000! That would be, as BI notes, the best monthly jobs report in six years. I like that BI zeroes in on auto sales as a key predictor. February saw sales rise to a 15-million annual pace, more than two million better than 2011. 

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