Employers added 217,000 jobs last month to top that threshold for the fourth straight month. The economy added 282,000 jobs in April, 203,000 in March and 222,000 in February, according to Labor Department statistics.
The May employment report was a “solid jobs report overall” and put the U.S. “back over the peak” of 138.4 million employed in January 2008, as the economy was entering its deepest downturn since the Great Depression, Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz SE and a Bloomberg View columnist, said on Bloomberg Television.
Though the recession officially ended in June 2009, total employment fell to as low as 129.7 million in February 2010.
“Even after a slow start in January, employment has climbed by about 214,000 each month on average this year. If the pace is sustained for the remainder of the year, it would mark the fastest-growing labor market since 1999,” when the economy added about 265,000 jobs on average, Victoria Stilwell reported for Bloomberg News.
Concerns remain. While the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or longer as a share of the jobless fell to its lowest level in almost five years, the number of long-term unemployed is still high by historical standards. The labor force participation rate, which measures the share of working-age people in the work force, is at a 36-year-low. It would take another 7 million jobs to put the rate back where it was before the recession, the Economic Policy Institute and Pew Research Center note.
The May numbers provided a “really solid jobs report, but the economy is really still stuck in second gear,” Karen Mills, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and a former head of the Small Business Administration, said on Bloomberg Television.
“Longer-term unemployment is too high, the participation rate is not budging from multi-decade lows, and earnings growth is anemic,” el-Arian said.