Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in May, and the unemployment rate edged
down to 3.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Employment continued
to trend up in several industries, including retail trade, health care, and construction.
Household Survey Data
The unemployment rate edged down to 3.8 percent in May, and the number of unemployed persons
declined to 6.1 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate was down by 0.5 percentage point,
and the number of unemployed persons declined by 772,000. (See table A-1.)
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5 percent), Blacks
(5.9 percent), and Asians (2.1 percent) decreased in May. The jobless rates for adult women
(3.3 percent), teenagers (12.8 percent), Whites (3.5 percent), and Hispanics (4.9 percent)
changed little over the month. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at
1.2 million in May and accounted for 19.4 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months,
the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 476,000. (See table A-12.)
Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, and the employment-population ratio,
at 60.4 percent, changed little in May. (See table A-1.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as
involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged at 4.9 million in May. These
individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because
their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)
The number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.5 million in May, was little
different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were
not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime
in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for
work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)
Among the marginally attached, there were 378,000 discouraged workers in May, little changed
from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons
not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The
remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in May had not searched
for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)
Establishment Survey Data
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in May, compared with an average monthly
gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months. Over the month, employment continued to trend up in
several industries, including retail trade, health care, and construction. (See table B-1.)
In May, retail trade added 31,000 jobs, with gains occurring in general merchandise stores
(+13,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+6,000). Over the year, retail
trade has added 125,000 jobs.
Employment in health care rose by 29,000 in May, about in line with the average monthly gain
over the prior 12 months. Ambulatory health care services added 18,000 jobs over the month,
and employment in hospitals continued to trend up (+6,000).
Employment in construction continued on an upward trend in May (+25,000) and has risen by
286,000 over the past 12 months. Within the industry, nonresidential specialty trade
contractors added 15,000 jobs over the month.
Employment in professional and technical services continued to trend up in May (+23,000) and
has risen by 206,000 over the year.
Transportation and warehousing added 19,000 jobs over the month and 156,000 over the year. In
May, job gains occurred in warehousing and storage (+7,000) and in couriers and messengers
Manufacturing employment continued to expand over the month (+18,000). Durable goods accounted
for most of the change, including an increase of 6,000 jobs in machinery. Manufacturing
employment has risen by 259,000 over the year, with about three-fourths of the growth in
durable goods industries.
Mining added 6,000 jobs in May. Since a recent low point in October 2016, employment in mining
has grown by 91,000, with support activities for mining accounting for nearly all of the
In May, employment changed little in other major industries, including wholesale trade,
information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours
in May. In manufacturing, the workweek decreased by 0.2 hour to 40.8 hours, and overtime edged
down by 0.2 hour to 3.5 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees
on private nonfarm payrolls remained at 33.8 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)
In May, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 8 cents
to $26.92. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 71 cents, or 2.7 percent.
Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by
7 cents to $22.59 in May. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for March was revised up from +135,000 to
+155,000, and the change for April was revised down from +164,000 to +159,000. With these
revisions, employment gains in March and April combined were 15,000 more than previously
reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and
government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal
factors.) After revisions, job gains have averaged 179,000 over the last 3 months.