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Economy adds more jobs than expected, wages can’t keep up with inflation

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Casey Harper | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The U.S. economy created 390,000 jobs in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, though a private report shows employers adding far fewer jobs.

That BLS data on nonfarm job creation is better than experts’ predictions of about 328,000 new jobs. However, job growth did slow in May, with the economy adding fewer jobs than in previous months. 

“Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, and in transportation and warehousing,” BLS said. “Employment in retail trade declined.”

Economists expected a 3.5 percent unemployment rate. BLS puts the unemployment rate at 3.6 percent.

“In May, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent for the third month in a row, and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.0 million,” BLS said. “These measures are little different from their values in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively), prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

Separately, a survey by ADP Research Institute released Thursday reported that private sector jobs increased by 128,000 last month, with small businesses actually 91,000 workers, indicating that companies are still struggling to fill open positions.

BLS also reported wage gains of about 5.2 percent in the past 12 months.

“Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.2 percent,” BLS said. “In May, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 15 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $27.33.”

Those wage gains, though, have not kept pace with inflation, which is rising at the fastest rate in decades. In roughly the last twelve months, energy costs have risen roughly 30 percent and food prices have risen almost 10 percent, with the overall inflation rate much higher than the 5.2 percent wage gains.

Employment changes in May varied by industry, according to BLS.

“​​Employment in retail trade declined by 61,000 in May but is 159,000 above ts February 2020 level,” BLS said. “Over the month, job losses occurred in general merchandise stores (-33,000), clothing and clothing accessories stores (-9,000), food and beverage stores (-8,000), building material and garden supply stores (-7,000), and health and personal care stores (-5,000). In May, employment showed little change in other major industries, including information, financial activities, and other services.”