The U.S. finally clawed back
all the jobs lost since the recession hit in late 2007, a watershed in a
grindingly slow recovery that finds a labor market still in many ways weaker
now than before the downturn.
payrolls in May hit an all-time high after the first four-month stretch of job
creation above 200,000 since the boom days of the late 1990s, according to the Labor
Department's latest employment report. In all, employers added 217,000 jobs
last month, nudging payrolls above the prior peak in January 2008. The jobless
rate, obtained from a separate survey of households, remained at 6.3%, the
lowest level since September 2008.
report renewed optimism for a long-awaited acceleration in economic growth and
helped drive stock markets to new highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose
88.17 points, or 0.5%, to 16924.28.
Despite signs of sustained strength, the
job market is a far cry from what it was before the financial crisis slammed
the economy in 2008. The number of jobs in manufacturing, construction and
government—typically well-paying fields—has shrunk, while lower-wage work grew.
The U.S. has 1.6 million fewer manufacturing jobs than when the recession
began, but 941,000 more jobs in the accommodation and food-service sector. More
than 40% of the jobs added in just the past year have come in generally
lower-paying fields such as food service, retail and temporary help.
The economy "is now
beginning to show incremental employment growth," said Doug Handler, chief
U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. But now the focus is turning to the types
of jobs being created. The first new job beyond the last peak, he said, will
probably be "a barista at local coffee shop."
Hodge of Seattle is one recently hired worker who feels "light years
behind where I thought I'd be" when graduating from culinary school in
24-year-old is glad to have health benefits and a decent wage—$15 an hour—to
pay rent and cover student-loan payments. She was hired this spring as an
ice-cream maker at Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream Shop in Seattle.
"At least now I have a
steppingstone where my future looks tangible," she said.
improving outlook is likely to give the Federal Reserve more confidence about
winding down its bond-buying stimulus program this year. But the central bank
may not shorten its time frame for raising interest rates, which have remained
near zero since late 2008, given how difficult it is to assess the labor
market's underlying vigor. Fed officials have their next policy meeting June 17
Fed can begin to dial back their obsession with the top-line payroll number and
instead focus on the quality of jobs created, who is working and growth in
income," said Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research.
job growth in recent months should put more money into consumers' pockets and
improve confidence, which could support stronger economic gains later in the
for the full article in the Wall Street Journal.