May 2019 EmploymentSubmitted by Atlas Indicators Investment Advisors on June 9th, 2019
America’s labor market continued improving in May 2019, albeit at a decelerating pace. Our nation added 75,000 net new jobs in the period according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was much slower than the downwardly revised count of 224,000 in April (originally 263,000) and March’s downwardly revised tally of 153,000 (originally 196,000). It is also about half the average of the prior three months and just over one-third of the average from the prior six months. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6 percent (a 49-year low).
Compensation continued rising but slowed some. The average wage gained $0.06 to $27.83 an hour. In the past year, this figure improved 3.1 percent, but this is marginally slower than 3.2 percent in April and its recent peak of 3.4 percent in February. Additionally, the average workweek held steady at 34.4 hours.
Hiring was mixed across the economy. Professional and business service firms accounted for 33,000 of the total hiring. Hotels and restaurants contributed 26,000, and 16,000 net new workers were hired by healthcare companies. Construction barely built its labor force, contributing just 4,000. Meanwhile, retailers shed 7,600 workers and shrank their aggregate payrolls for a fourth consecutive month. Employment within government declined as 19,000 state and local jobs disappeared, but this was partially offset by an additional 4,000 federal employees.
May’s employment situation was hardly a barnburner. However, this statistic can be noisy month to month, so Atlas will follow the three and six-month moving averages. Unfortunately, both have been moving lower since reaching recent peaks in January of this year. For now, we will characterize this indicator as “soft.”