The U.S. economy continued to add jobs at a solid clip in May, with nonfarm payrolls up 223,000 and the unemployment rate falling to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
Economists had been expecting payroll growth of 188,000 and the jobless rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.
The unemployment rate was last this low in April 2000. A separate level of unemployment that adds in discouraged workers and those holding part-time positions for economic reasons fell to 7.6 percent, the lowest since May 2001. A 0.1-point decline in the labor force participation rate to 62.7 percent, tied for the lowest level in 2018, contributed to the headline unemployment rate decline.
The closely watched average hourly earnings metric rose 0.3 percent, as expected. That translates to an annualized rate of 2.7 percent, up 0.1 point from April.
"The employment this month really underscores, once again, the robust strength of the labor market," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. "May showed steady momentum in jobs and certainly hit back at any worries among economists who thought hiring was beginning to finally slow after seeing last month's report."
In addition to the better-than-expected payrolls for May, March's count was revised up from 135,000 to 155,000 while April ended lower from 164,000 to 159,000, for a net gain of 15,000.