America’s job market recovery picked up some steam in May, with 559,000 positions added back to the economy. But the number fell far short of expectations.
It was a second sizable miss of analyst expectations after a big disappointment in April. Economists had predicted 650,000 jobs added in May.
The unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
Still, it was a big improvement from the revised 278,000 jobs added in April. The initial read of 266,000 jobs last month was the biggest miss versus expectations since Refinitiv started recording that data in 1999.
The labor market is in a weird spot, showing just how uneven and awkward the recovery is.
Even though millions of people remain unemployed or have had to leave the labor force, businesses complain of worker shortages. Companies are raising wages to attract and retain employees.
Meanwhile, various states have announced they will end the pandemic era expanded jobless benefits before the official expiry in September. Whether that will spur a jump in job applicants remains to be seen.
Critics of higher unemployment aid say the bigger payments have kept people sitting on their couches. But the pandemic isn’t over yet and workers are still balancing health and exposure risks, as well as child care, with going back to work.
Hopes are high that the full return to in-person schooling in September will allow those kept at home due to care responsibilities to rejoin the labor force.