The May employment report showed another healthy month of job gains, with the economy adding 217,000 jobs. This brings the three month average to 234,000. If this rate is sustained, it will lead to a substantial decline in unemployment in the months ahead. However, this is difficult to reconcile with the weak growth the economy has seen in recent quarters, hence the fall in reported productivity in the first quarter. The job gains were concentrated in health care (33,600), restaurants (31,700), social assistance (21,300) and employment services (20,200).
To the surprise of many, the unemployment rate was unchanged in May. This is due to the fact that the 0.4 percentage point plunge in labor force participation reported for April was not reversed. The labor force participation rate remained at 62.8 percent.
Other news in the household survey was more positive. The number of involuntary part-time workers fell again, while the number of voluntary part-time workers rose. Also the percent of workers who are unemployed due to the fact that they voluntarily quit their jobs jumped to 8.9 percent, the highest level since October of 2008.