Job Growth: A Big, Disappointing Number

The U.S. economy added 431,000 new jobs in May, the federal government said this morning. Sounds promising.

But dig a little deeper, and the number doesn't look so nice. Almost all of those jobs — 411,000 of them — were temporary employees hired to work on the census. Those jobs typically last only for a few months.

The private sector added only 41,000 jobs during the month. It's much lower than what economists were expecting, and far fewer jobs than private employers added in April. It suggests the economic recovery is slowing.

Private employers added more than 200,000 new jobs in April. And Economists were predicting that private employers would add more than 100,000 jobs in May.

The economy has shed more than 7 million jobs since the end of 2007, though the number of jobs has increased since the start of 2010.

May was probably the peak month for census hiring, Bloomberg News notes. And in the coming months, the census department will begin dismissing more employees than it hires.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in May, down from 9.9 percent the month before, the government said this morning.

But that number, like the jobs number, is somewhat misleading.

The unemployment rate only considers people who are actively seeking work and can't find it. In May, fewer unemployed people started looking for work again. That contributed to the decline in unemployment.

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