Job Growth Remained Robust, but Cooled in May

June 3, 2022

Job growth cooled slightly in May, adding to concerns that the economy is starting to lose momentum from it rapid post-pandemic recovery.

The U.S. added 390,000 jobs last month, a robust increase by historical standards, but down from April’s gain of 436,000 and below last year’s monthly average. May’s gain was the slowest since April of last year.

The unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%, only slightly higher than the 50-year low seen in 2020 before the pandemic began. The labor force grew by 330,000, but the workforce participation rate remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

Wages grew 5.2% in May from a year ago, down from 5.5% in April. That was a sign that the labor shortage might be starting to ease as more people return to the workforce.

Gains were largely broad-based, with most sectors adding jobs at a steady clip. The one outlier was the retail sector, which shed 61,000 jobs last month as big-box retailers, department stores, and grocery stores all cut staff. 

Retail employment surpassed its pre-pandemic level in January, but since February, employers have cut more than 70,000 jobs as consumers pivoted their spending away from goods and toward services like travel and dining out.

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