US Unemployment Rate Drops To 16-Year Low In May


US unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in May 2017 from 4.4 percent in the previous month and below market expectations of 4.4 percent. It was the lowest jobless rate since May 2001, as the number of unemployed persons was little changed at 6.9 million and the labor force participation rate fell to 62.7 percent.

Since January, the unemployment rate has declined by 0.5 percentage point, and the number of unemployed has decreased by 774,000.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Whites edged down to 3.7 percent in May. The jobless rates for Blacks (7.5 percent), Asians (3.6 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent), as well as those for adult men (3.8 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), and teenagers (14.3 percent), showed little or no change.

Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 211,000 to 3.3 million in May. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged over the month at 1.7 million and accounted for 24.0 percent of the unemployed. 

The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 62.7 percent in May but has shown no clear trend over the past 12 months. The employment-population ratio edged down to 60.0 percent in May.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 5.2 million in May. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

There were 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force, down by 238,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, there were 355,000 discouraged workers in May, down by 183,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in May had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

BLS | Joana Ferreira | joana.ferreira@tradingeconomics.com
6/2/2017 12:50:29 PM