U.S. economy added just 69,000 jobs in May; unemployment rate at 8.2%; U-6 unemployment up sharply

The U.S. economy added a very disappointing 69,000 jobs in May, according to results of the monthly survey of payroll establishments released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A separate survey of households found that 422,000 more Amerians reported themselves to be working in May than in April (a striking divergence from the establishment survey), but the labor force grew by even more over the month: 642,000. That results in an unemployment rate “virtually unchanged” from last month of 8.2%. That’s up from 8.1% last month.

The U-6 measure of unemployment (Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force), climbed to 14.8% in May from 14.5% in April.

I noted in a post last night that I had been expecting a significant pick up in the number of Americans in the labor force. Last month the participation rate ticked up .2% to 63.8%

With some noise month to month, the U.S. economy has been steadily adding jobs since the recession officially ended in summer 2009. As I have noted before, the pace of job creation has been nearly the same as the recovery from the 2001 recession.

Of course, given the depth of the 2007-2009 recession, the current pace of job creation leaves us still far behind the total number of jobs that the U.S. economy had at its peak almost 5 years ago.

We would be adding jobs a little more quickly if not for significant cuts in local and state government employment. The unemployment rate might be a full point lower without those public sector job losses.

Here you can see the worrisome slip in job creation this spring, which is probably the result of multiple factors including the spike in gas prices a number of weeks ago and the ongoing economic crisis in Europe:

I’ll look more closely at some of the data and read some other commentary. If anything leaps out, I’ll do another post later.