U.S. employers added enough jobs in May to recover all 8.7 million jobs lost during the financial crisis, a slow recovery that has taken more than four years to unfold.
Businesses added a greater-than-expected 217,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department reported on Friday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected nonfarm payroll employment to increase 213,000 last month. The consensus range was a notably wide 110,000 to 240,000 for the month, suggesting economists struggled to factor how April's strong growth may have affected May.
The important figure observers were looking for was 113,000, the number needed for the economy to recover all the jobs lost during the so called “Great Recession.” At its lowest point in early 2010, U.S. employment had declined by roughly 8.7 million from its prerecession peak.
"Finally, it took long enough," said John Canally, an economic strategist at Boston-based LPL Financial.
"I think [the recovery] will remind folks we are in a recovery, but it also reminds the people who have been out of work for a long period of time to think 'why isn't it me?'" Canally said. He said it remained problematic that many Americans were either out of work for a long time or underemployed.
While employers have added jobs consistently for the past few years, the recovery has been slower than the four previous recoveries that took, on average, more than one year according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The Labor Department on Friday also reported the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3%. Economists had expected 6.4% for the latest month.
Ahead of the report, Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told CNBC he had anticipated job growth north of 200,000 for the latest month. He indicated job gains should accelerate later this year.
“I think we will get stronger jobs numbers as the economy is improving,” Zandi said.
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