Employers in the United States added 217,000 jobs in May, slightly below what analysts had been expecting. The US non-farm payroll figure was well below April's revised number of 282,000 jobs, but it was still the fourth month in a row of solid gains. The unemployment rate in May remained at 6.3%.
Job gains have averaged 234,000 a month over the past three months, compared with 150,000 over the previous three months.
It's hoped the current labor market figures show that the US economy has emerged from its winter slump and is set to strengthen its recovery later in the year.
The jobs created in May now means that in the five years since the financial crisis, the United States has regained all the 8.7 million jobs it lost during the recession.
However, economists say the fact that the population of the US has grown by 7% over that period also has to be taken into account.
Also, the rate of pay growth remains sluggish. Average hourly earnings rose by just five cents last month. In the 12 months to the end of April, earnings grew at 2.1%, which suggests little upward pressure on wages.
Part of the reason for this is that many of the jobs being created are towards the lower end of the pay spectrum. This is reflected in the May numbers. Hotels, restaurants and entertainment companies added 39,000 jobs and retailers put on 12,500. Meanwhile, the construction sector added 6,000 new jobs.
Almost all of the new jobs were in the private sector, with government departments across the board only adding 1,000 workers.
This is a solid report, said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, ”marking four straight (monthly) gains over 200,000; that hasn't happened for more than 14 years.”
Analysts said that Friday's non-farm payroll figures add to a picture showing a sturdy recovery in the US economy.
Recent figures ranging from automotive sales to manufacturing activity are suggesting that the economy could experience an annualized rate of growth of 3% in the current quarter.