May jobless rate at 7.6 percent

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percent in May to 7.6 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. A separate survey showed businesses claimed to create a net of 175,000 new jobs last month.

That alleged business job creation rate is not enough to make a positive dent in the number of jobless, which was 11.8 million in May, up 101,000 from the month before, said Economic Policy Institute employment specialist Heidi Shierholz.

"The slog continues," she said. "At this pace, we'll have a jobs deficit of 4.6 million in May 2016. It will take more than six years to get back to the pre-recession unemployment rate. 

"Given our deficit of 8.5 million jobs, we need more than 300,000 jobs per month to get to full employment by May 2016, three years from now and six months before the next presidential election.  At the job growth rate of the last year, we will still have a deficit of 4.6 million jobs in May 2016."

Construction gained 7,000 jobs in May, with most of the gains in specialty contractors. There were 891,000 jobless construction workers, or almost one of every nine (10.8 percent).

Construction union leaders say the true percentage is approximately double. Factories shed 8,000 jobs, with 3,100 that net loss in machinery. One of every 16 (6.8 percent) factory workers, some 1.056 million, still seek employment.

The report also contained some more glum news:

Three of the lowest-paying service sectors - temps (+25,600 jobs), restaurants and bars (+38,100) and retail trade (+27,700) added the most jobs in May, the separate survey said. Overall, service firms claimed to add 179,000 jobs.

Almost one of every seven workers (13.8 percent) was unemployed or underem-ployed in May. That total includes the jobless, discouraged workers who stopped seeking jobs and workers forced to toil part-time when they really want full-time work. And three of every eight (37.8 percent) of all officially jobless workers in May were unemployed for at least six months. Both figures were 0.1 percent less than in April.

Governments shed a net of 3,000 jobs, but that masked a loss of 9,800 federal jobs and 3,400 in the Postal Service. The BLS analyst who works on technical data said "it's hard to tease out" the exact reason for that drop, but the "sequester" - GOP-ordered federal budget cuts - isn't it. While the cuts force agencies to furlough workers for a day or two, they're still employed during the BLS May survey week. Instead, since the data are seasonally adjusted, the federal loss could reflect normal agency action that hasn't occurred, such as the National Park Service not hiring summer help.

Photo: Unions say unemployment among construction workers is actually much higher than what the official figures reflect.   Flickr (CC)

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