The unemployment rate rose a tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 percent in May as employers added 175,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employment rose in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, and retail trade, the BLS reported. Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.8 million, and the unemployment rate were essentially unchanged in May.
In May, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged at 4.4 million. These individuals accounted for 37.3 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.0 million.
The civilian labor force rose by 420,000 to 155.7 million in May; however, the labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.4 percent. Over the year, the labor force participation rate has declined by 0.4 percentage point. The employment-population ratio was unchanged in May at 58.6 percent and has shown little movement, on net, over the past year.
Professional and business services added 57,000 jobs in May. Within this industry, employment continued to trend up in temporary help services (with 26,000 jobs added), computer systems design and related services (6,000 jobs added), and architectural and engineering services (5,000 jobs added). Employment in professional and business services, which includes accounting and tax preparation, has grown by 589,000 over the past year.
The White House greeted the latest jobs report, despite the uptick in the unemployment rate.
“While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further confirmation that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a blog post on the White House's Web site. “It is critical that we remain focused on pursuing policies to speed job creation and expand the middle class, as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”
He pointed out that the economy has now added private sector jobs every month for 39 straight months, with a total of 6.9 million jobs added over that period. So far this year, 972,000 private sector jobs have been added.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the modest job growth was a positive sign, but added, “We can do a lot better. Millions of Americans have been out of work for more than several months, wages are stagnant, and the unemployment rate is still far higher than the Obama administration promised. We need to get the Keystone XL pipeline built and expand energy production, make it easier to pay for college by taking the politics out of student loans, craft a flatter, simpler Tax Code, and much more. Every American expects and deserves a stronger economy, and we’re going to continue to focus on policies like these that will create robust job growth and better opportunities for everyone.”
House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., pointed to the increase in the unemployment rate as proof of the need for improving the Tax Code.
“The fact that the unemployment rate remains this high is just more proof that this is the weakest economic recovery in our nation’s history,” he said in a statement. “And, while families are facing higher costs, many have had their pay frozen or, worse, their hours cut back. Washington needs to focus on creating a stronger economy. There is no one silver bullet, but two of the best things we can do is get our long-term debt under control and reform our Tax Code to make it more efficient and effective for families and employers.”
Mike McNamara, vice president at the staffing and recruiting firm Accounting Principals, estimates that the unemployment rate for accounting and finance personnel is less than half the BLS figure for the overall population. He noted that the rate is about 3.8 percent for college graduates.
“That’s for all college degrees,” he added. “When you break that down and you have an accounting or finance degree, it’s probably even lower than the 3.8 percent. It really is a tighter market for accounting and finance candidates than it has been in the past because of the low unemployment rate. It’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing now that there’s still a lot of hiring going on from the client perspective. We’re getting more business because there are fewer candidates actively in the marketplace, so passive candidates are becoming a much more important part of the business. A passive candidate is somebody who is currently employed and successful at what they are doing, but they will at least listen to an opportunity that may be presented to them by an executive recruiter.”
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