Employers added 217,000 jobs in May to push U.S. payrolls past their pre-recession peak and the jobless rate held at an almost six-year low as the economy gained traction.
The 217,000 advance was broad-based and followed a 282,000 gain in April, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 215,000 increase. Unemployment in May was unchanged at 6.3 percent.
Improving business confidence as sales grow and the economy rebounds from its worst performance in three years will probably mean headcounts will continue to climb. Rising employment gives Federal Reserve policy makers reason to keep paring back record monetary stimulus.
“It’s in line with where we ultimately think the pace of job growth will be this year,” Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. The figure is “consistent with an economy that is growing between 2 percent and 2.5 percent.”
Payroll estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 92 economists ranged from increases of 110,000 to 350,000. May marked the fourth straight month payrolls have increased at least 200,000, the first time that’s happened since September 1999 to January 2000.