The U.S. economy is performing below expectations. The addition of a mere 54,000 jobs in May confirms that, along with the slight rise in unemployment to 9.1 percent.
The previous three months averaged 220,000 new jobs each month, causing economists to ponder what happened in May to the momentum of the recovery, however slight.
Several analysts, including President Obama, have pointed to high gas prices and natural disasters here and abroad as factors hampering the economy.
Private firms hired a mere 83,000 new workers last month, the Associated Press reported. Local governments eliminated 28,000 jobs in May, nearly 18,000 in education. City and county governments have cut 446,000 positions since September 2008.
All the arrows point to a slow recovery and continuing high unemployment.
Manufacturing growth in May was the slowest in 20 months. Home prices in urban areas are the lowest since 2002. High gas and food prices have slowed consumer spending.
The federal government has signaled an end to stimulus spending and called on the private sector to lead the recovery. "You've seen corporate profits high," said White House economist Austan Goolsbee. "It's now time to get that translated ... into the adding of jobs, building of factories and buying of equipment here at home."
That would be nice, but unlikely, judging by the stock market's performance in recent days and economists' outlook for the near future.
The Conference Board is predicting that unemployment at year's end will be 8.5 percent.
As one analyst put it, the economy has "hit a soft patch," raising the question of whether slow growth is a temporary trend or something to expect for the long term.