The results are in, and while only 69,000 jobs were added in May—the fewest in a year—and the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent, the good news is that the estimated share of the U.S. population with a job rose.
The Labor Department’s Household Survey, based on a sample of 60,000 households, found that the number of people employed rose by 422,000 in May which brought the unemployment-to-population ratio to 58.6 percent. Up from April’s 58.4 percent, the new percentage matches February’s ratio which was the highest since May 2010. Best of all, because the 422,000 employment gain estimated in the household survey exceeded the survey’s margin of error of about 400,000 jobs, the gain was more likely to be realistic across the nation.
The Labor Department’s Household survey may even be more realistic than the U.S. government’s unemployment survey. Because the U.S. government uses a survey of mostly large businesses and government agencies to determine how many jobs are added or lost each month, the survey doesn’t pick up on trends for the self-employed, small businesses, farm workers, or start-up companies.
And, while the jobs data has heightened some fears that the economy is again sputtering, the increase in unemployment was the first in 11 months, which according to some economists makes another recession far less likely. Similarly, the increase in the unemployment rate can be taken as a positive sign as 642,000 Americans who had stopped searching for work began re-entering the work force as job seekers.
However, the hiring slowdown can hurt even those who do have jobs because employers have less incentive to give raises. To that point, pay has only risen 1.7 percent in the last year, which is the smallest 12-month gain since December 2010.
In this interactive Pew Center chart, changes in U.S. employment from 2007-2012 show that forty-three states and the District of Columbia added jobs in the past 12 months, but the U.S. still has 4.8 million fewer jobs than it did in 2008. Read more about what economists think may happen in the next year here and here.