The May jobs report wasn't spectacular, and it wasn't disastrous. Unemployment ticked up to 7.6 percent, largely due to a slight increase in labor force participation. The nation gained 175,000 jobs, which is heartening, but the pace is not nearly fast enough to close the jobs gap anytime soon. In fact, according to the Hamilton Project's calculator, it will take 9 years and 5 months to get back to pre-recession employment levels at this rate.

Like we always do in Wonkblog at this time, let’s break the report down, chart-style.

Unemployment and jobs gained

The 175,000 number for May isn't spectacular, and neither were the revisions for the two months before. In total, they subtracted 12,000 jobs, with 4,000 gained in March and 16,000 lost in April:

Meanwhile, even though jobs increased, unemployment rose as the labor force expanded:


As usual, the public sector lost jobs, though less (3,000) than in March and April:

Labor force participation

Perhaps the strongest part of the report were the labor force participation numbers. The rate ticked up to 63.4 percent from 63.3 percent, suggesting that some labor force dropouts are finally reentering the job market, either by looking for work or actually getting hired:

Alternative unemployment

Evert month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases six unemployment measures. There’s U3 -- the number that shows up in all the news articles -- which counts people who don’t have jobs but have looked for one in the past four weeks. There are also U1, U2, U4, U5 and U6. U1 and U2 numbers are usually lower than U3, and they measure the percentage of people who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer and the percentage who have lost jobs or done temporary work during the month being measured, respectively.

The figures for U4, U5 and U6 are higher than for U3. Each of these categories includes everyone in all the lower categories: All people in U3 are in U4; all people in U4 are in U5; and all people in U5 are in U6. U4 adds people who have stopped looking for work because they’ve concluded that none is available. U5 adds people who would like to work but for whatever reason have not looked for work recently. U6 adds the underemployed, or part-time workers who want to be working full time but cannot for whatever reason.

U3 was actually the only unemployment rate to rise. U1 and U4 were unchanged, while U2 fell from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent, U5 fell from 8.9 percent to 8.8 percent, and U6 fell from 13.9 percent to 13.8 percent:

Sectoral changes

Not every sector felt the recession equally, and the winners (like education and health) and losers (like construction) were largely unchanged in May. It was another banner month for mining and logging, though, which again reaches above the limits of this chart:


Wages grew by 2 percent in May, and the April growth rate was revised to 2 percent from 1.9 percent. But that's barely above the inflation rate, so real wages are hardly rising at all: