At first glance, the May jobs report is pretty disappointing: While total employment grew by 431,000 jobs, 411,000 of those jobs are temporary census positions -- convenient for a government that denies it can create jobs. In all, private-sector employment only grew 41,000 (after increasing by over 200,000 in April) and the unemployment rate, while down to 9.7 percent of the labor force from last month's 9.9 percent, remains stagnant thanks to discouraged workers leaving the labor force.
However, looking further, there is some rosy news: The U-6 unemployment rate, which measures the unemployed, people who are forced to work part-time for economic reasons, and discouraged people who have stopped looking for work, has dropped down to 16.6 percent from 17.1, its lowest point since February. This shift was driven largely by the 343,000 who began working full-time hours after being forced to take fewer hours. That, and the continuing increase in temporary hiring, might indicate that demand for workers is increasing.
Despite these green shoots, in contrast to last month's strong report, the data reveals that private-sector job creation is still anemic at best, raising questions about the strength of economic growth and its ability to produce employment. These numbers are simply not good enough for a country that prides itself on getting people to work. Which might make you ask, is America's jobs machine broken?
-- Tim Fernholz