Shrinking payroll gains reflect slowing U.S. job growth

Job growth continues to slow in the United States, according to government estimates that reflect shrinking monthly gains in payrolls.

The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose just 69,000 in May. Initial estimates for payroll gains in April and March were revised downward a total of 49,000.

Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate edged up a tenth of a point to 8.2 percent in May.

While payrolls continue to grow, gains have declined four consecutive months. What initially was estimated as an increase of 115,000 jobs in April was revised downward to 77,000. A gain of 154,000 in March was revised downward to 143,000. The May gain of 69,000, the smallest in a year, was less than a third of the average monthly increase of 226,000 during the first quarter of 2012.

The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work increased to 12.7 million in May. The number of people out of work for 27 weeks or longer rose to 5.4 million and now accounts for nearly 43 percent of the unemployed.

The latest labor estimates come on the heels of a report that growth in gross domestic product, the broad measure of goods and services produced in the country also has slowed. What initially was estimated as 2.2 percent annual GDP growth for the first quarter of 2012 was revised downward to 1.9 percent.

For May, payroll gains in several industry sectors offset job losses in other sectors, but only barely.

The transportation and warehousing sector added 36,000 jobs, while health care employment increased 33,000. Wholesale trade payrolls grew 16,000, and manufacturers added 12,000 net new positions.

Meanwhile, though, construction employment declined 28,000 with job losses among specialty trades contractors and heavy and civil engineering construction firms.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls slipped a tenth of an hour to 34.4 hours in May, while the average manufacturing workweek was shorter by three-tenths of an hour at 40.5 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls edged up 2 cents to $23.41. Average hourly earnings have increased 1.7 percent over the past year.