Nonfarm payroll employment rose by +217,000 in May, pushing the level of total payrolls above its prior peak, even as modest downward revisions to the prior two months decreased March and April figures by a net -6,000. The unemployment rate and the length of the average workweek both held steady, at 6.3% and 34.5 hours, respectively.
Anemic growth in the government sector meant that almost all of the gains came from the private sector (government jobs added just +1,000 to the total tally) as employment in professional and business services rose by +55,000—in line with its prior 12-month average gain—and the health care and social assistance sectors added +55,000 jobs as well.
The +53,000 gain in total office-using employment (Table 1 and Chart 1) was, once again, almost entirely due to the increase in professional and business service jobs. The count of temporary help workers continued to trend up (+14,300) and the number of workers in both computer system design and management/technical consulting each rose by nearly +7,000 on the month. Within the broader category of financial activities, the gain in the number of workers in insurance, real estate and rental/leasing collectively offset a decline in workers in the finance industry, as the number of workers in commercial banking continued to contract. Information sector payrolls fell modestly as well, largely due to the volatile “motion picture and sound recording” category, where jobs shrunk by -9,200.
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Note that since the official end of the recession almost five years ago, information sector jobs have declined by more than 5%. While overall job growth appears robust, there are several sectors within office employment where weakness has persisted (Chart 2).