May Jobs: Finally, As Exciting as Watching Paint Dry
 
The May jobs report was dull – and that is a good thing. Unlike past reports, May consisted of either no news or good news. In the no news category, unemployment was unchanged at 6.3 percent, the labor force rose modestly and labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.8 percent. Average weekly hours were flat.
 
On the good news side, the economy generated 217,000 jobs, which were relatively widely distributed across the economy (although less than last month). The aggre-gate index of weekly payrolls rose and overtime edged up in durable goods manu-facturing. 
 
The outlier from this sedate picture is the sharp rise in the Hispanic unemployment rate from 7.3 percent to 7.6 percent even as the labor force participation rate stayed unchanged.  
 
Data junkies here’s your fix: the May U-6 (the broadest measure of unemployment) edged down to 12.2 percent from 12.3 percent.
 
The positive spin will focus on the fact that total employment finally exceeds the pre-recession peak. Well, about time. But don’t celebrate too much. The fraction of the population that is employed, 58.9 percent, remains 4 full percentage points below the pre-recession peak. Some of this is inevitable retirement of the baby boom, but not nearly enough to be happy about the state of affairs. 
 
The bottom line: The jobs number hit the expectations for an economy that is expand-ing at a solid, unspectacular 2 to 2.5 percent pace. The labor force stabilized and un-employment was unchanged as a result. Hours edged up and payrolls expanded. It is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Finally.