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Jobless Rate Hits 9.1%; Private Sector Payrolls Increase

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The U.S. unemployment rate reached 9.1% in May, according to numbers released on Friday by the Labor Department, prompting differing spins on the health of the economy from the Administration and Congressional Republicans.

The April unemployment rate was 9.0%, while the May 2010 jobless rate was 9.6%. There were 13.9 million Americans unemployed in May, while 153.7 million were employed, numbers which the Labor Dept. characterized as "unchanged" from April.

DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics said nonfarm payroll employment "changed little" during the month, adding 54,000 jobs, with gains in professional and business services, health care and mining. Local government employment continued to decline.

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a posting on the White House’s web site on Friday that the unemployment rate is “unacceptably high and faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the [economic] downturn.”

Goolsbee noted that while “there are always bumps on the road to recovery, the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years.” He went on to note that initiatives put in place by the Obama Administration–such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment—“have contributed to solid employment growth overall this year, but this report is a reminder of the challenges that remain.” The Administration, he said, is “focused on promoting exports, reducing regulatory burdens and making the investments in education, research and development, and infrastructure that will grow our economy and create jobs.”

But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., stated after the employment numbers were released that today’s jobs report is “disappointing” and shows that the nation’s economy “needs an injection of growth oriented policies to ensure that businesses can innovate, expand and begin hiring again.”

Under Obama’s watch, Cantor said, “Washington has tied the hands of small business owners with regulations that have made it harder to grow, and has spent money that it doesn’t have, leading to sustained unemployment over 8% and a national debt of more than $14 trillion. It is astounding that despite the warning signs and economic indicators, President Obama and Congressional Democrats still have failed to offer any concrete plan to create jobs, reduce our debt, or grow our economy.”

Goolsbee also noted the following numbers from the jobs report. Overall payroll employment rose by 54,000 in May. Solid employment increases occurred in professional and business services (+44,000) and education and health services (+34,000). Sectors with employment declines included local government (-28,000), retail trade (-8,500), and manufacturing (-5,000). Despite the decline in May, manufacturing has added 238,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010, the best period of manufacturing job growth in over a decade.


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