The month of May shaped up to be the strongest month of the year in terms of U.S. employment, with 280,000 jobs having been added to the job market. While the Labor Department reports that unemployment increased to 5.5% from 5.4% in April, the rise shows a positive sign that hundreds of thousands more Americans were active job market participants who sought employment in May.
With 5.6 million jobs being added within the last two years, the economy has seen its highest job growth since 2000. When looking at the private sector, strong signs of improvement were shown as employment rose by 262,000 last month. In the manufacturing sector, where employment was on a steady decline from 2000 to 2008, the employment rates have since gone up 22%.
While a robust number of jobs have been added to the market, average hourly wages have only risen 2.3% from a year earlier. For millennials who have recently graduated college, the Economic Policy Institute reports that number to be even lower, with the average pay for young professionals today being less than it was 15 years ago.
The issue of slow pay gains has been at the forefront of many economic conversations with labor unions fighting for a national push to raise minimum wages. Big employers, such as Walmart, have already announced pay hikes, with entry wages starting at at least $9 an hour.
As America fights to get back to its days before the Great Recession, statistics showing upward job growth prove that employers envision a healthier economy and are willing to hold on to their employees.