Employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning fell short of economists’ predictions. According to the government, in May the U.S. economy added a mere 69,000 jobs. Economists had expected 150,000 to 158,000, according to various surveys.
The nation’s unemployment rate, which had declined slightly in recent months, edged back up a tenth of a percent to 8.2%.
Private sector payrolls rose by 82,000 during the month, while government jobs fell by 13,000. Manufacturing added 12,000 jobs, and service positions increased by 84,000. The construction industry, however, shed 28,000 jobs.
The government also revised downward the number of jobs added in April, from a previously reported 115,000 to just 77,000.
The percentage of Americans participating in the labor force rose to 63.8%, a narrow improvement over the prior month.
However, a broader measure of unemployment that includes unemployed workers who have given up looking for work, in addition to those still claiming unemployment benefits, rose from 14.5% in April to 14.8% in May.
The length of time a worker remains unemployed while looking for a new position also increased last month, with the average period rising from 39.1 weeks in April to 39.7 weeks last month.
During May, the time an average worker spent at work dipped 0.1 hours to 34.4 hours a week. For manufacturing workers, time slipped 0.3 hours to 40.5 hours, while overtime fell to 3.2 hours a week, down 0.1 hours from April.
Today’s weak employment data comes on the heels of yesterday’s news that first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose last week and after a raft of layoff announcements from companies across the economic spectrum, from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) to General Mills (NYSE:GIS).
An analyst cited by CNBC said the new numbers confirmed that the U.S. economy was’t simply slowing down, it was “pulling the emergency brake.”