U.S. Unemployment Rate Unexpectedly Falls

By John S. McClenahen Economists expected the U.S. unemployment rate to creep up to 6.1% in May from April's 6%. It didn't. With the unemployment rates for both adult men and adult women declining two-tenths of a percentage point, May's jobless rate fell to 5.8%, reports the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To David Huether, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington D.C., the May unemployment rate combined with an increase in payroll employment of just 41,000 people in May suggests a "sluggish" recovery from recession is under way -- but a recovery, nevertheless. The recovery is "not as strong as we would like, but even so these data lessen the threat that some have raised of a double-dip recession later in 2002," Huether says. The service sector of the U.S. added jobs in May while the manufacturing sector continued to lose jobs, although at only about a tenth of the rate of a year ago. Manufacturing job loss averaged 21,000 in April and May of this year, compared with a monthly average of 112,000 between January 2001 and January this year, notes Lois Orr, BLS' acting commissioner. In May, manufacturing job losses of about 19,000 were concentrated among producers of computer equipment, electronic equipment, instruments, textiles, apparel, paper products, and printing and publishing, says Orr.

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