Smooth Economic Sailing Hits Headwinds

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that businesses only created 75,000 new jobs in May, a far cry from April’s boisterous numbers. Furthermore, March and April’s employment gains were revised downward by 75,000 with the addition of new information. It’s possible that American businesses are finally having trouble sailing into the headwinds caused by President Trump’s trade wars.

That said, there were a few bright spots amidst the gathering clouds. The unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent, a 50-year low. The comprehensive jobless rate—the highest that anyone can claim the “true” unemployment rate really is, also held steady at its lowest-ever value, 6.5 percent. And the number of people working part-time (for economic reasons) but wanting full-time employment fell by 299,000, an 11.5 percent drop over the last year.

One data point does not a trend make, but employment growth has had a bumpy ride so far in 2019. Because production-related investment decisions, like purchasing machines and hiring new employees, are premised on the business owners’ expectation of what the future looks like, the sooner the US can steer out of choppy water, the faster our economy will expand.

Quick Statistics from the May 2019 BLS Jobs Report

Headline Employment Statistics

  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 75,000 jobs.
  • The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.8 percent.
  • The headline unemployment rate (U-3) held steady at 3.6 percent.

Other Unemployment Rates

  • The mid- to long-term unemployment rate (15 weeks or longer; U-1) held steady at 1.3 percent.
  • The discouraged worker unemployment rate (U-4) fell by 0.1 percentage points to 3.8 percent.
  • The comprehensive jobless rate (U-5b) held steady at 6.5 percent.

Deeper Unemployment Statistics

  • The number of unemployed workers rose by 64,000 to 5.89 million.
  • The number of people who say they want a job but were not actively seeking work fell by 76,000 to 5.05 million.
  • Short-term unemployed workers (under 15 weeks) fell by 40,000 to 3.75 million.
  • Long-term unemployed workers (27 weeks or longer) rose by 68,000 to 1.30 million, accounting for 22.4 percent of those who are unemployed.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Employment Statistics

  • The unemployment rate for those specifically seeking full-time work held steady at 3.5 percent.
  • The unemployment rate for those specifically seeking part-time work rose by 0.1 percentage points to 4.2 percent.
  • The number of people who wanted to work full time, but who could only find part-time work for economic reasons fell by 299,000 to 4.36 million, a drop of 11.5 percent over the last 12 months. The part-time workers who wanted full-time employment constituted 16.9 percent of all part-time workers.


  • Average hourly earnings (for all private, nonfarm employees) rose by 3.1 percent over the previous 12 months.
  • Average weekly earnings (for all private, nonfarm employees) rose by 2.8 percent over the previous 12 months.

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