The national unemployment rate edged up to 9.1 percent in May from 9.0 percent in April, according to figures released Friday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The economy added just 54,000 jobs last month, the worst showing in eight months. Employment increases averaged 220,000 over the prior three months.
Freddie Mac’s chief economist Frank Nothaft says the economy needs to add over 250,000 new jobs per month, on a sustained basis, to reabsorb all the jobs lost since the recession.
Nothaft says the labor market has “a long way to go before the unemployment rate moves sharply lower. And ditto for seriously delinquent rates on mortgages.”
He notes that the large number of workers unemployed for an extended period of time remains the predominant force behind the industry’s high volumes of seriously past-due mortgages.
According to Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 13.9 million persons unemployed as of the end of May. The number of those jobless for 27 weeks or more rose to 6.2 million last month and accounted for 4.0 percent of the civilian labor force.
May’s results fell far below market expectations. Economists were expecting job growth in the range of 150,000 to 190,000 and a drop in the unemployment rate to 8.9 percent.