US em­ploy­ers add solid 280,000 jobs; rate at 5.5%

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH BOAK

U.S. em­ploy­ers added a ro­bust 280,000 jobs in May, show­ing that the econ­omy is back on track af­ter start­ing 2015 in a slump.

The U.S. La­bor Depart­ment said Fri­day that the un­em­ploy­ment rate ticked up to 5.5 per­cent from 5.4 per­cent in April. But that oc­curred for a good rea­son: Hun­dreds of thou­sands more peo­ple sought jobs in May, and not all found them.

Last month’s strong job growth sug­gests that em­ploy­ers re­mained con­fi­dent enough to keep hir­ing even af­ter the econ­omy shrank dur­ing the first three months of the year. The gov­ern­ment also re­vised up its es­ti­mate of job growth in March and April by a com­bined net 32,000.

Con­struc­tion and health care com­pa­nies the drove the May job growth. On the neg­a­tive side, per­sis­tently cheaper oil led en­ergy com­pa­nies to shed work­ers for a fifth straight month.

Still, av­er­age hourly wages rose only 2.3 per­cent from a year ear­lier. Tepid pay gains has been a per­sis­tent prob­lem for the econ­omy.

Over the past three months, the econ­omy has added an av­er­age of 207,000 jobs, a de­cent gain though lower than year’s av­er­age of 263,667.

Con­sumers, the main driver of the U.S. econ­omy, re­main fairly cau­tious. Fac­tory or­ders have dropped. But Fri­day’s solid jobs re­port could help con­firm the econ­omy’s vi­tal­ity.

Auto and home sales are ac­cel­er­at­ing de­spite oth­er­wise slow-spend­ing con­sumers. More big em­ploy­ers, such as Wal­Mart, have un­veiled pay hikes.

Those fac­tors could power faster growth, fuel job gains and boost wages. If they do, a broader eco­nomic re­cov­ery than the one that’s ex­isted in the six years since the Great Re­ces­sion of­fi­cially ended could emerge.

Over the past 12 months, around 3 mil­lion jobs have been added. Those ad­di­tional pay­checks helped in­crease spend­ing on hous­ing and au­tos. Sales of newly built homes have surged 23.7 per­cent through the first four months of 2015 com­pared with a year ago, gov­ern­ment data show. Ris­ing de­mand for new homes could lead con­struc­tion firms to ramp up hir­ing.

Amer­i­cans bought 1.64 mil­lion cars and trucks in May, the most since July 2005. If that trend were to en­dure, it would ben­e­fit a man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor that’s added a scant 4,000 jobs since Jan­uary.

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