May Jobs Report

Growth continues.

The NYT reports:

The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent for the third straight month, near a half-century low. Average hourly earnings for employees rose by 10 cents, or 0.3 percent on a monthly basis, and were 5.2 percent higher than a year earlier. 

Jobs growth was broad and led by the leisure and hospitality sector, as consumers continued to pivot their spending habits away from goods and toward services like travel, dining and entertainment. 

Here’s monthly growth over the last year:

We have not quite gotten back to pre-pandemic levels of employment:

The deficit in overall employment compared with prepandemic levels is about 800,000.

“We’re in the homestretch here — we could be about two months from being at the employment level that we had in prepandemic times in February 2020,” said Andrew Flowers, a labor economist at Appcast, a firm that helps companies target their online recruitment efforts.

All of this is good economic news, but it is overshadowed by inflation, especially in fuel prices.

The dramatic return to basically pre-pandemic unemployment rates is pretty remarkable (and the graph is a reminder of how dramatically Covid-19 affected the economy):

More here: The key numbers in the jobs report and how to interpret them.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Barry says:

    IMHO, the pivot should help with inflation, since we seem to still have supply chain problems, and still will so long as the Chinese government remains stupid.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    (and the graph is a reminder of how dramatically Covid-19 affected the economy)

    Only because those pansy Democrats insisted that human lives were more important than corporate profits. Ridiculous!

  3. MarkedMan says:

    All of this is good economic news, but it is overshadowed by inflation, especially in fuel prices.

    Depends on your definition of “overshadowed”. I would contend that millions of additional people without jobs would be a bigger deal than our current level of inflation.

  4. Fortunato says:

    Unlike the morally bankrupt, pathologically lying, brazenly manipulative right wing misinformation complex, Democrats are unimaginably inept at crafting and selling narratives – about ANYTHING.
    Even when the narratives are TRUE!
    Regarding inflation –
    How about a unified Democratic message on the current blight of PERVASIVE CORPORATE GREED – simply tout (and incessantly repeat) the record profits being raked in by so many among the predatory capitalist crowd.
    Do what party of Grifting Obstuse People never ceases doing –
    hold out for Americans a g.d. Boogeyman to which they can direct anger – in this case – RIGHTEOUS anger!
    AND JOIN THEM IN THEIR ANGER while allowing the special interest owned GOP defend their subservience to big oil, big ag and corporate greed!
    Our has the distinct advantage of being REAL, as well as easy to understand!
    It’s not the fake shi$ the right wing perpetually fabricates – it’s not CRT, ‘Baby Parts’, Mickey schtooping Pluto, ‘grooming’ your kids, Sharia Law, Agenda 21, the Deep State, Hillary’s child sex rings.., ignorance ad nauseum.
    Explain to Americans supply shortages brought on by ‘Just In Time’ inventories – i.e. capitalism!
    Explain to them Infant Formula shortages due to… CORPORATE MONOPOLIES, shoddy business practices… and, wait for it… CAPITALISM!
    And maybe point out that under Donald Trump, the U.S. entered into a new North American trade agreement that actively discourages Infant Formula imports from our largest trading partner, Canada.
    Democrats raise billions of dollars every year, all year long, and yet NONE of this money is EVER spent actually clenching a fist and FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THE LIES!
    All the above could easily be packaged into a 30 second ad.
    It’s maddening.
    Trump’s going roll over us in 2024, and America is simply f–d. Our new, fledgling Autocracy, ran by a band of newly emboldened criminals, will quickly tumble to also-ran status.
    China will immediately become the global leader.
    Should we allow this to happen – our children and grandchildren have the right to torture us for the rest of our days.

  5. Scott F. says:


    All the above could easily be packaged into a 30 second ad.
    It’s maddening.

    Where would you run this 30 second ad where it might compete for attention against the gas prices posted in very large numbers on every street corner across America?

    Yes, it is maddening, but I would ask that you consider redirecting your anger. Messaging and Democrat rhetoric can’t save us (or hurt us all that much) when the problem is minority rule and when that minority has successfully made facts irrelevant.

    Considering giving your financial support to the Brennan Center for Justice, Reform Elections Now, or various other advocacy groups. Ease up on yelling at the Democrats and join Dr. Taylor in trumpeting our electoral system dysfunction as root cause to any Dem, Rep, or Independent who complains about anything about the government. Until the system can again deliver results based on the popular will, it doesn’t much matter what truths the population understands.

  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Fortunato: It’s all preaching to choirs. The advantage the GQP has is that its choir doesn’t believe it has alternatives. And that choir is correct in ways the left no longer understands, post triangulation.

  7. Lounsbury says:

    @MarkedMan: You would be wrong – millions is merely big numberism. A few percentage points of unemployment may be an entirely bearable and very concentrated bit of economic pain (see France). Whereas significant accelerating inflation – despite Left denialism upset over the dreams of gov spending being snatched away – is a very broadly felt pain, with an order of magnitude wider population impact. And particularly keenly felt in lower and lower middle income levels.

    The Left generally hates swallowing this, however there is rather broad and international historical pattern that inflation is much more potent toxin politically than unemployment, unless one is in the Great Depression levels of unemployment. You on the Left would be rather better served dropping the denialism and hand-waiving and grappling, or your next electoral cycle will be rather more blood letting than anticipated even.

    @Fortunato: ‘Greedflation’ as your messaging, well you can try it. It’s fallacious economics but maybe it can be sold – although the US Left’s foolish 2021 stimulus agenda for USA is a hard item to unsell relative to the counter-propaganda.

    Meanwhile for economic self-harm, the self-paralysis on maintaining Trump’s foolish tariffs – at least suspending them – is baffling.

  8. Lounsbury says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That is nonsense, how you lot have managed to convince yourselves that it is all preaching to the choir rather escapes… Self deception I suppose to avoid painful admissions and excuse away snatching defeats from the jaws of victory via political incompetence.

    However demonstrably the political opposition has in fact not merely “preached to the choir” but rather successful converted niche audiences over, selling their vision (right or wrong as a vision, successfully selling it) to voting segments that previously voted otherwise.

  9. Fortunato says:

    @Scott F.:
    Messaging and Democrat rhetoric can’t save us (or hurt us all that much) when the problem is minority rule and when that minority has successfully made facts irrelevant.

    Messaging, in the form of rote, devious manipulative misinformation delivered 24/7/365 by the winger media is ALL the Republican party has – and they’re going to kick our a$$es with it this fall.
    The GOP doesn’t offer actual ideas.
    The GOP doesn’t engage in honest debate.
    The GOP doesn’t craft actual solutions.
    The GOP doesn’t do governance.
    Christ – the GOP no longer even HAS a party platform and now refuses to engage in Presidential debates!

    And “facts are irrelevant” ONLY because the right wing misinformation complex is so doggedly consistent with their malevolent, devious MESSAGING!
    Messaging delivered and reinforced 24/7/365 via Roger Ailes empire of grift.

    The debauchery that is Minority rule has nothing to do with messaging.
    Minority rule is possible only because Republican lack any semblance of morals or principles and their paste eating base don’t give a rat’s a$$. MAGAts just want to see the Dems owned, even if it means the death of Democracy.
    Democrats need to adopt the same tactics.
    Chuck Schumer needs to be unceremoniously removed as Senate Majority Leader and replaced with a take-no-prisoners leader like Amy Klobuchar or Elizabeth Warren. Someone who will clench their fists and step the f— up before it’s too late.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:


    …inflation…is a very broadly felt pain…

    Besides economists and government officials, the only people who care about unemployment are the unemployed. As soon as they get a job, other issues, be they, inflation, wages, commute time, become more important. At 3.6% unemployment, few are worried about getting a job.

    Also the fact that inflation is raging throughout the world, isn’t an argument that will lead anywhere.

  11. Fortunato says:

    First I’ve heard that term.
    It sounds like a term Frank Luntz would craft and sell to Fox ‘News’ as a tool for their a.m. Couch Cretins (along with Larry C-C-Cocaine Kudlow) to ‘giggle at. A term presented to the pie eyed MAGAhordes as more ‘Fake News’ from those silly Dems.

    Kind of the way you just presented it to me.

    The record profits are IN FACT, real.
    And you must have missed the part where greed – very real greed – was only one piece of the narrative re the Boogeyman of inflation. Inflation that Nobel prize win economists will tell has very little to do with Joe Biden (see Krugman; “The Perverse Politics of Inflation”)
    Everything I presented was fact, and it all makes for a compelling, easy to understand story.
    Speaking of ‘facts’, those are something no WINNING narrative successfully utilized by the grifting right wing entertainment complex can EVER claim to honor.

    We desperately need to understand that horse–t narratives, like CRT, are crushing us.
    Horse–t narratives – accompanied by pics of entire winger families wielding AR-15’s – are WINNING countless House and Senate seats (and Governorships, State Houses, Secr of State, County Clerk… ) for the GOP in cities large and small, all over the country.

    We need to understand what Roger Ailes figured out 30 years ago.
    Vast swaths of the voting electorate are f–g stupid.
    We need to cater to the stupid.

    I pray it’s not the ‘greedflation’ folks that are running campaigns this fall.
    If so, it will be a rout.

  12. Ken_L says:

    The unemployment rate in the EU remains above 6%. It’s true that inflation has a more negative influence on satisfaction with “the economy” than unemployment, unless the latter is increasing rapidly. Nevertheless the contrast between the European and American experiences should be pointed out forcefully and repeatedly. Democrats should keep hammering the message that inflation is a temporary price paid to get millions of Americans back into the workforce quickly after a once-in-a-century global pandemic, instead of wringing their hands about how much they feel voters’ pain (but can’t do anything to ease it).

    And it’s a mystery why they haven’t explained the global oil shortage has been caused largely by a 2020 deal to cut production massively; a deal the Trump Administration negotiated with OPEC and Russia to save US fracking companies from bankruptcy. The way Trump Republicans have been allowed to craft a narrative that high gas prices are the result of the Green New Deal verges on criminally inept politics.

  13. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Scott F.: Scott,

    No. Just no. The Republican information machine unchallenged in Rural and Suburban Red Counties and Red States are the very thing that enables Minority right rule. Red State voters, for the most part, hate Republicans. However, when all the conversation in the information space is about the pure hate and evil of Democrats, the logical choice for these voters is the vote for only thing keeping this Country from being Soviet America—Republicans.

    Democrats fundamentally do not understand the nature of the problem they face or the fight they are in. Non-Academics do not respond to facts and Socratic argumentation. They respond based how something makes them feel.

    If Democrats are serious about saving America they’d be building a counter messaging infrastructure to become a competing voice and dilute that 4% of Republican Primary voters who are voting based on being scared shitless that Democrats are the actual agents of Satan. That was not a joke…

  14. @MarkedMan:

    Depends on your definition of “overshadowed”. I would contend that millions of additional people without jobs would be a bigger deal than our current level of inflation.

    Well, my definition of “overshadowed” in this context is: what will get more press coverage and, more importantly, what are most people likely to be talking about?

    I am not making a moral judgment about how things ought to be, I am making an empirical judgment about what is more likely to capture the public’s attention.

  15. Lounsbury says:

    @Fortunato: New York Times. That’s who used it. it would appear to be a term some Left organisations are using, not something taken from Fox.

    Trying blaming arguments as the political pitch may be workable so long as one is not fooled y one’s own propaganda and attempt to solve inflation via policy action driven by the agitprop you;ll end up as successful as Mr Putin in the Ukraine although from Left maundering on in this area, you are in fact so fooled…

    As for your maundering on attempting to justify the innumerate excuse making in fact, well, comments boxes are not where one can learn economics.

    @Steven L. Taylor: And an empirical observation that is perectly supported in economic history.

    @Ken_L: Inlfation is temporary pitch continued… To explain to 40% of population why they’re suffering at the supermarket so 3% of population gets a job whose wage rates are not keeping up with inflation…. A staggeringly bad piece of advice, really staggeringly bad. Well if the Left really wants to rerun it’s 1970s experience, go for it.

  16. Lounsbury says:

    @Jim Brown 32: While one should suspect modest exaggertion in “Red State voters, for the most part, hate Republicans.”, yes, the messaging that the intello urban fraction arrives at really is misaimed. Broadly the Democrats core problem is indeed incompetence in selling themselves – and was not always the case – to rural /small city regional audiences. They desperately need not to continue the myopic coastal-urban intello-egghead pitch. And adjust nearish term political and poolicy focus to match that actual political balance. Or condemn themselves to romantic losses. Organiser over Activist thinking.

    @Lounsbury: it is to note that the US BEA shows shrinkage in corporate profits in nominal terms (to the extent that treating all corporate profits in one bucket versus by sectors has sense, and of course ignoring profits of corporations =/= profits of private sector companies broadly) in latest quarters after a 2021 acceleration (and a total decline in 2020). Such a pattern, provisional as it is is in general keeping with what one expects econometrically in a situation of sudden acceleration in inflation as initial demand drives up prices while existing inputs and products stocks allow for extra margin, but then pricing feeds back through. And of course the nominal price and revenue illusion that becomes important – one really has to deflate the numbers to real terms.