The Department of Labor released its May employment situation report (link opens in PDF) today, and the labor market still has a ways to go along the recovery road. 

After increasing by a strong 282,000 for April, total nonfarm payroll employment edged up a smaller 217,000 this past month. But after previous signs of a labor market slowdown, analysts hadn't been expecting much, and their 213,000 estimate proved almost spot-on. 

Monthly job growth has now averaged 234,000 for the past three months, up sharply from 150,000 in the previous three. In addition, with the latest increase, nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, the economy has finally regained all the jobs lost in the downturn.

The unemployment rate held steady at 6.3% in the latest report. Historically, the unemployment rate has served as an important economic signal, and it has until recently received significant attention as providing a "threshold level" for Federal Reserve monetary actions. But in a March announcement, the Fed backtracked on its definitive decision point, so this latest reading could have less of an impact.


Source: Labor Department 

Diving deeper into the latest numbers, the private sector provided the main push for May employment. Professional and business services added 55,000 jobs, as did the health care and social assistance sector. Food services and drinking places also employed more Americans, growing their ranks by 32,000.

For those with jobs, May's average hourly earnings inched up $0.05 to $24.38, on par with analyst expectations. In the last year, hourly earnings have increased 2.1%.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Discover a top stock pick for 2014
Every year, The Motley Fool's chief investment officer hand-picks 1 stock with outstanding potential. Just click here to download your free copy of "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014" today.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Compare Brokers