Nonfarm payroll employment for May came in well below analysts’ lowered estimates and the nation’s unemployment level rose slightly to 9.1%. The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said the economy added just 54,000 jobs last month as local government employment continues to decline. The consensus figure from an Econoday survey forecast 170,000 new jobs with a range of estimates between 90,000 and 200,000. Analysts surveyed by were expecting an increase of 140,000 jobs for May. The economy averaged new nonfarm payroll jobs of 220,000 the prior three months. The Labor Department revised gains for March to 194,000 from 221,000 and for April to 232,000 from 244,000. Employment rose in professional and business services, as well as health care in May. Local government jobs fell by 28,000 last month and are down by 446,000 since peaking in September 2008, according to Labor Department data. The number of people marginally attached to the labor force for May was 2.2 million, which is down from prior months. The Labor Department doesn’t count these people as unemployed because they haven’t looked for a new job in at least one month. The number of unemployed Americans remained roughly 13.9 million in May. The long-term unemployed, or those without jobs for 27 weeks or more, rose by 361,000 last month to 6.2 million. There are 8.5 million people employed part-time for economic reasons, or involuntarily, according to the Labor Department. After climbing to 9.8% in November, the unemployment rate had declined steadily this year before May’s increase. “It is now pretty clear that the economy ran into a brick wall last month,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at the Capital Economics. The “very disappointing” nonfarm payroll data for May “will undoubtedly lead to calls for the Fed to continue with its quantitative easing beyond the scheduled conclusion of QE2 at the end of this month,” according to Ashworth. On Wednesday, Automatic Data Processing Inc. said the private sector added 39,000 jobs in May, considerably lower than many expected and down from 177,000 for April. The payroll giant conducts the monthly survey, which excludes federal jobs, in conjunction with Macroeconomic Advisers. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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