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Stagnation in the May 2014 jobs report

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the April 2014 Employment Situation Report, better known as the jobs report, this morning and the news was far from stellar. After last month’s report worried economists with slow growth numbers, many have been keeping a close watch on what May’s jobs report would bring.

The news wasn’t necessarily bad, with the unemployment remaining steady from last month at 6.3%. Nonfarm payroll increased by 217,000, outpacing the 12-month average of 197,00. The healthcare, hospitality, professional services, and transportation industries all added jobs, though the numbers were relatively low. Manufacturing, government, and retail industries were among the industries that held steady.

Despite the underwhelming numbers, it’s not all doom and gloom. Average hourly earnings rose five cents, reaching a mean of $24.38. The 12-year trailing average for hourly earnings has been an increase of 2.1%, so despite the unemployment rate remaining relatively unchanged, there is still growth in the job market as a whole. When compared to the recession-driven 9% ceiling the unemployment rate hit in 2009, the stagnation doesn’t seem so bad. However, the slow job growth from the past several months may leave employers feeling skittish about economic futures, at least until we start seeing steady improvement again or reach pre-recession numbers. Since the unemployment rate spike, this is the closest we have come to the 5% unemployment rate enjoyed prior to 2008. Economists will likely be heavily anticipating June's jobs report, hoping to see growth.

What does this mean for you?

After the past several months of jobs reports lacking robust numbers, this is hardly welcome news for job seekers. A lack of activity means that the job market will likely remain very competitive in the coming months. This is far from the panic induced by the overwhelming unemployment rate spike seen during the recession years, but that worry is still very fresh in employers' minds. Hiring may slow in the coming months as companies wait to determine the impact the slow job growth will have on the economy. It is worth noting, however, that over the last 12 months we have seen steady gains on the jobs report in the ranks of the employed, as well as in their salaries. Overall, the economy is in much better shape than it was this time last year, but there is still some ground to be covered before we are completely out of the woods. For now, we will have to wait and see what news the June jobs report will bring.

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