5 Things to Watch in the May Jobs Report

The Labor Department releases its latest view of the job market Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect it to show employers added 190,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.9%, the lowest level since December 2000. Here are five things to look for in the report. 1. Show of strength Over the past 12 months, employers have added 190,000 jobs, on average, each month. Economists project that to continue—on the nose. That’s significant because the broader expectation is for hiring to slow as workers become more scarce. But the pace of hiring has edged up since last fall, a sign the record streak of job growth won’t come to an end anytime soon. 2. Attracting and retaining One reason employers have been able to hire is the share of Americans working or looking for work has started to edge up after a long . That’s especially true among so-called prime-age workers between 25 and 54 years old. Watch to see if the trend continues. If it does, it suggests employers are either pulling workers off the sidelines into the labor force or incentivizing existing workers not to retire or otherwise exit in a tight labor market—and it’s likely a combination of the two. 3. How low can the rate go? The unemployment rate fell below 4% last month for the first time since 2000. Can it stay there? Can it fall even lower? Keep in mind the rate can be volatile month to month, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the rate tick up to 4%, or a bit higher. It could be the case that the low unemployment rate inspires more Americans to start looking for jobs, which would increase the number of unemployed. 4. Wages creeping up for rank-and-file workers  Low unemployment and steady hiring should be a recipe for wage increases, but overall pay gains have decelerated in recent months, perplexing economists. Still, watch hourly earnings for nonmanagers–they’ve have quietly improved and matched their best increase since 2010 in April. That may indicate low unemployment is finally forcing businesses to bid up wages for all levels of employees, rather than to only reward managers for strong profits and rising stock values. 5. Great news for dropouts? May kicked off graduation season, but the recent data suggest it’s never been a better time to lack a diploma. The unemployment rate for those without a high-school diploma touched a 25-year record low late last year, and has held below 6% this year. That’s a sharp drop from 8.5% in September 2016. Meanwhile the rate for college grads has held nearly flat during that time, though at a much lower level, 2.1% last month. RELATED  Which Jobs Are Workers Most Willing to Move For? These Ones (May 16) U.S. Adds 164,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Falls to 3.9% (May 4) The April Jobs Report in 12 Charts (May 4)

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