May's low job creation was more a function of a legitimately weak month than an economy reaching full employment, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.
Since the Labor Department announced a week ago that nonfarm payrolls grew by just 38,000 last month, Wall Street has debated what the numbers mean. Were they an indication of a scary economic slowdown, or just that after more than 5½ straight years of monthly gains, there simply remains very little slack left in a jobs market that has 12.8 million new hires since the Great Recession ended?
Data on worker availability and supply going back to 1975 suggest that the employment situation is still a distance from topping, Goldman economist David Mericle said in a note to clients.
"Labor market tightening cannot explain away the weak May payrolls print, which instead appears to mostly reflect a month of weaker labor demand," Mericle wrote.
Assessing the progress of the U.S. labor market is difficult because of cross currents: The headline unemployment rate that the government emphasizes fell in May to 4.7 percent, which Goldman considers a reflection of full employment.