May 2017 Unemployment Update

Following up on our coverage of April’s employment data, the May Employment Situation release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics continues the same trends we’ve seen all year.  The U-3 unemployment rate dropped by another 0.1%, while the U-6 “underemployment” rate dropped by another 0.2%.  Neither shift is dramatic, but it suggests the labor market is still reasonably tight.

   

January

 

April

 

May

Five Month
Change
U-3 Unemployment Rate 4.8% 4.4% 4.3% -0.5%
U-6 Unemployment Rate 9.4% 8.6% 8.4% -1.0%
         
Civilian Noninstitutional Population* 254,082 254,588 254,767 +685
Civilian Labor Force 159,716 160,213 159,784 +497
Employed 152,081 153,156 152,923 +842
Unemployed 7,635 7,056 6,861 -726
Employment-Population Ratio 59.9% 60.2% 60.0% -0.1%
Part-time for Economic Reasons 5,840 5,272 5,219 -621
Marginally Attached to Workforce 1,752 1,534 1,475 -218
  • Discouraged Workers
532 455 355 -177
         
* All numbers are in thousands        

(For more details on the calculations behind these numbers, see our Lamppost on unemployment.)


However, the Civilian Labor Force number is slightly unsettling, as it shows that approximately 400,000 people dropped out of the workforce in May, split about evenly between Employed and Unemployed.  This may simply be the normal statistical noise seen from month-to-month, or perhaps a return to the declines expected due to the retirements of Baby Boomers.  Either way, it will be worth watching in future months.

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