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Three Key Numbers From the May Jobs Report

Retail, construction, and health care post particularly strong employment gains.
A worker carries lumber as he builds a new home on January 21st, 2015, in Petaluma, California.

On Friday, the United States Department of Labor released its May jobs report. The report was overwhelmingly positive—Neil Irwin of the New York Times' Upshot blog wrote that "[t]he real question in analyzing the May jobs numbers released Friday is whether there are enough synonyms for 'good' in an online thesaurus to describe them adequately."

Here are the three key numbers from the report:

  • 223,000: The number of jobs the U.S. economy added in the month of May. Most major industries added jobs, with retail, construction, and health care posting particularly strong gains.
  • 3.8 percent: The U.S. unemployment rate in May, the lowest rate recorded since 2000. Notably, many of the groups that have been particularly slow to recover from the Great Recession also saw gains. Both African Americans and people with less than a high school diploma also saw notable improvements in unemployment rates. (The African-American unemployment rate is now at a historic low of 5.9 percent.)
  • 2.7 percent: Between May of 2017 and May of 2018, average hourly wages increased by only 2.7 percent. This is one of the few disappointing numbers in the report, and echoes last month's report. The lack of meaningful wage growth displayed so far in this recovery continues to puzzle economists. Most of the major economic indicators—unemployment, job openings, etc.—currently point to a tight labor market in which employers should be ramping up their efforts to attract workers. Despite scattered reports of companies utilizing large signing bonuses and additional perks for employees to attract workers, broad wage growth remains elusive.