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Job Losses Slow To 345,000 In May

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Some mildly encouraging news after months of 600K+ job loss.

Still, the unemployment rate is now at 9.4%, but underemployment almost has to be at 16% this month since it was 15.6% last month. Underemployment is the number of people who are out of work plus those who are working part time but want full time jobs. So it’s a much better measure of the actual employment situation.

Here’s more detail from NY Times:

Economists were encouraged that businesses were cutting fewer jobs, but six million jobs have now disappeared since the recession began in December 2007, and 14.5 million people are now unemployed. They warned that job losses were likely to pile up through the rest of the year as the country’s labor market bottomed out. “These are still terrible numbers,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics. “We’re a million miles away from a recovery.”

Financial markets nonetheless sensed recovery a bit nearer. Futures on the Dow Jones industrial average rose, and the price of oil shot above $70 a barrel for the first time since November, bolstered by hopes that demand would rebound as the global economy recovered.

In normal times, the loss of so many jobs in a single month would have been interpreted as a calamity. But 18 months into the longest recession since the 1930s, economists said the milder pace of job losses indicated that the economy was gradually leveling off as government stimulus money trickled out and businesses reined in their budgets and payrolls.

And here are some specifics about employment sectors…

Retail trade employment was down by 18,000 in May; job cutbacks in retail trade have moderated markedly in the past 2 months. Employment in wholesale trade fell by 22,000 over the month, with over half of the decrease (-14,000) among durable goods wholesalers.

Financial activities employment continued to decrease in May (-30,000). Securities lost 10,000 jobs and real estate lost 9,000. Employment in credit intermediation continued to trend down, although the May job loss was well below the average job loss for the prior 6 months. Employment in information decreased by 24,000 in May.

Health care employment increased by 24,000 in May, about in line with its average monthly job growth so far in 2009. Employment in government changed little in May.

The change in total nonfarm employment for March was revised from -699,000 to -652,000, and the change for April was revised from -539,000 to -504,000.

More as it develops…