A moderately disappointing May jobs report: 559,000 jobs added, signs of tight labor market.

The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs in May, below economists’ expectations, but still a solid employment gain. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports,

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 559,000 in May, and the unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in public and private education, and in health care and social assistance.

The Wall Street Journal notes that labor shortages remain a drag on employment gains. 

The gains marked an uptick from April, but were lower than economists predicted and reflected businesses struggling to fill job openings as potential workers remained on the sidelines. The labor recovery has slowed from earlier in the year—in March, the economy added 785,000 jobs—a development economists say could extend a full labor recovery well into next year…

A record level of job openings in the U.S. suggests businesses are having difficulty filling positions. Economists have pointed to a variety of factors that could be contributing to constrained job growth. Those issues include some workers’ concerns about contracting the coronavirus, child-care responsibilities preventing some parents from returning to work, and a $300-a-week federal supplement for recipients of unemployment benefits.

The Association of Washington Business reports Washington employers also face hiring challenges.

“A lack of skilled and qualified workers was a big issue for many employers prior to the pandemic,” Association of Washington Business President Kris Johnson said. “The pandemic has exposed and magnified the issue, as it has so many others.”

The numbers tell the story. The state Department of Commerce recovery dashboardshows weekly job postings increased sharply in Washington after the first of the year, reversing the steep declines that began in March 2020. Restaurants, hotels, trucking companies and other employers report they can’t find enough people to fill all the openings.

Observers point to multiple factors at play, including enhanced unemployment, lack of child care and health concerns. But with so many jobs available now, it’s time to end the suspension of the job search requirement for those receiving unemployment insurance benefits.

An important long-term solution is to connect young people with real-world, work-based learning opportunities that will prepare them for high-growth careers.

The Associated Press explains that some volatility is to be expected.

The monthly job numbers have been bouncing around as the economy navigates a bumpy transition from COVID-19 lockdown to boom times. During this transitional period, economists caution against trying to predict hiring patterns from month to month.

“All these employers put up help-wanted signs at the same time,” noted Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s taking a few weeks for workers to take the jobs.’’

Over the past few months, job growth has gone from 233,000 in January to 536,000 in February to 785,000 in March, to 278,000 in April, to 559,000 in May. As recently as December, the economy had lost 306,000 jobs.

Step back, though, and the job market looks far less volatile: The three-month hiring average was 518,000 in March, 533,000 in April and 541,000 in May.

Most analysts expect the jobs recovery to continue. But as AWB’s Johnson says, there are steps policymakers can and should take to accelerate the trend.