It's been three years since the Great Recession technically ended, and still, unemployed Americans are struggling to find work. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the economy added a worse-than-expected 69,000 jobs in May, and that the unemployment rate climbed to 8.2 percent. The abysmal report stoked fears that America's uneven economic recovery is faltering once again, after a string of optimistic months in which it appeared to be gaining momentum. Here, five takeaways from the May jobs report:
1. Don't expect to find a silver lining
The Labor Department's data yielded little to no good news. The private sector created a meager 82,000 jobs, while the government — constrained by budget cuts at the state and local levels — shed 13,000 workers. As a whole, the economy added the fewest jobs in a year of monthly reports, and job numbers for April and March were revised downward. "Monthly jobs growth averaged 252,000 from December through February," says Paul Davidson at USA Today, "but job gains have slowed to a monthly pace of 96,000 the past three months."
2. The U.S. economy is unquestionably in the pits
Economists have theorized that unseasonably warm weather led to an unusual boost in hiring in the winter, leading to a natural drop-off in the spring. But the "latest report hinted at more fundamental weakness in the economy," says Lucia Mutikani at Reuters, which grew at a feeble rate of 1.9 percent in the last quarter.
3. The global economy is slowing, too
The dismal jobs numbers could reflect a slowdown in the global economy, which has been rattled by a volatile debt crisis in Europe. Lackluster growth in China, India, and Brazil — emerging economies that had propelled the global economy in recent years — is also enfeebling American companies.
4. Obama's re-election prospects are dimming
The "rotten" jobs report "is essentially confirmation of Mitt Romney's message," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. "We're not in recovery, and what we are doing isn't working." Of course, Romney was quick to zing Obama on Friday, saying, "The president's re-election campaign slogan may be 'Forward,' but it seems like we've been moving backward."
5. It may be time for the Federal Reserve to act
To encourage lending, the Fed has already lowered its benchmark interest rate to near zero and bought hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Treasuries and other assets. But it's clear the central bank must devise new tricks to boost the economy, says Matthew Yglesias at Slate. "For months now they've been dawdling instead of rolling up their sleeves and thinking as hard as they can about what to do to increase demand and employment." Get more aggressive, Fed.