Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in May

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The American economy added 38,000 new jobs last month. However, since we need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, this means that net job growth clocked in at a dismal -52,000 jobs. The official excuse for this drop was the big Verizon strike, but that seems unlikely to account for more than a fraction of the bad news.

The headline unemployment rate declined to 4.7 percent, but obviously this isn’t because more people found work. It’s because a whopping half million people—most of them unemployed—simply dropped out of the labor force. The bleak arithmetic is on the right. However, it’s not clear why so many people exited the labor force. Some are new retirees, of course. More pointedly, some of them appear to be long-term unemployed who got discouraged and gave up looking for work, but that accounts for only part of the drop.

Unsurprisingly, labor force participation was down by 0.2 percentage points. Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were up at an annual rate of about 1.7 percent compared to last month, which means wages were about flat in real terms. Overall, this was a really discouraging report. If you insist on a silver lining, here it is: It’s probably less likely now that the Fed will raise interest rates at their next meeting.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest