Total non-farm payrolls grew by 431,000 in May as the 2010 Census added 411,000 temporary employees, according to updated data today by the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. It marked an increase from 290,000 jobs added in April, but the figures still fell short of economist expectations. Private-sector employment grew by more than 41,000 in May, after the Automatic Data Processing (ADP) national employment report estimated yesterday it would be closer to 55,000. Additionally, Capital Economics had put total non-farm payroll additions at an estimated 700,000. “This is a timely reminder that, although the economic outlook is improving, the recovery is still pretty tepid,” said Capital Economics senior US economist Paul Ashworth in an e-mail. “Construction employment fell by 35,000 last month, while manufacturing increased by 29,000 and private services employment increased by 37,000.” Despite missing some estimates, the added jobs in May helped bring the overall unemployment rate down slightly to 9.7%, from 9.9% in April, mainly due to the labor force shrinking by 322,000. The broader U-6 measure of both un- and under-employment edged down in May to 16.6% –the lowest level since January — from 17.1% in April. “This is probably more of the wild volatility that the household survey is famous for rather than an indication that the recovery has stalled,” Ashworth said. “In sum, this is a good reality check for where the economy really is. Conditions are improving, but the recovery is still not catching fire.” The narrowed unemployment figures bode well for mortgage performance, considering NeighborWorks America recently determined that 58% of homeowners receiving foreclosure counseling through the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program listed unemployment as the key cause of default. Write to Diana Golobay.

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