Spring has sprung for the U.S. economy. Hiring topped 200,000 for the fifth straight month in May to exceed expectations and clear a milestone — according to the May jobs report, the total number of employed persons is now back to its pre-recession peak.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 217,000 last month, the Department of Labor said Friday in the jobs report, suggesting that the spring acceleration in economic activity continues apace. Economists, on average, forecast payrolls to grow by 215,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg.
The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, was unchanged at 6.3% vs. a forecast of 6.4%. The rate remains at its lowest level since September 2008.
The May jobs report helps confirm recent signs of life in the economy: May vehicle sales hit their fastest rate in seven years, and manufacturing activity likewise offered positive surprises.
The rebound also comes after a weak first quarter when gross domestic product fell at a 1% annual rate, hurt by unusually harsh winter weather.
Average weekly hours didn’t budge at 34.5, which matched expectations. Hourly earnings rose 2.1% year-over-year vs. a forecast for growth of 2%.
The news wasn’t all good, however. The labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 62.8%, the lowest level since 1978.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting. Here’s a look into the May jobs report:
May Jobs Report: Industry Highlights
Drilling down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May Employment Situation Report showed areas of strength in professional and business services, healthcare and social assistance, food services and drinking places, and transportation and warehousing.
Professional and business services added 55,000 jobs in May, led by computer systems design and related services and in management and technical consulting. The industry has averaged 55,000 new jobs a month for the past year.
Healthcare and social assistance continued to be a good place to look for work, as the industry added 34,000 jobs in May. Ambulatory healthcare services was the top place for new jobs, as offices of physicians, outpatient care centers and home healthcare services created 23,000 positions.
Bars and restaurants continued to post employment gains. Payrolls in food services and drinking places increased by nearly 32,000 in May and by 311,000 over the past year.
Transportation and warehousing employment accelerated sharply last month, adding 16,400 jobs vs. a monthly average of 9,000 over the last year. Areas of strength included support activities for transportation, and couriers and messenger.
On the other side of the May jobs report, Federal government employment continued to recede, losing 5,000 jobs in May. Payrolls in state government excluding education fell by 5,000, led by losses in education.
Elsewhere, the motion picture and sound recording industries pared payrolls by 9,000. Electronics and appliance stores shed 5,000 positions, while sporting goods, hobby, book and music retail stores pared 2,000.
Financial activities continued to offer a mixed picture for job seekers. Although the industry enjoyed net payroll growth of 3,000, various sub-sectors continued to lose workers. Taken together, depository credit intermediation and commercial banking saw employment retreat by more than 5,000 jobs.