Expectations going into this morning's jobs report were that the economy added about 160,000 jobs in May, which would be a slight decrease from April. The new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were actually a little more encouraging than that.
The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May, slightly better than expected, though the overall unemployment rate inched higher to 7.6%. (Update: Remember that these minor increases aren't always bad news, and occasionally, they're sign of an improving jobs landscape.) As is usually the case, there was a gap between the two major sectors -- America's private sector added 178,000 jobs last month, while spending cuts caused the public sector lose 3,000 jobs.
One key figure to keep in mind, however, was local-government hiring, where 13,000 jobs were created. We've grown accustomed to municipalities doing the opposite, and if this holds up (and continues), it will strengthen the overall job market. (Update: On the other hand, federal hiring declined by 45,000 over the last three months, suggesting that Congress' sequestration budget cuts are doing what they were intended to do -- hurting the economy.)
May's totals are, of course, preliminary, and will be revised. Indeed, the revisions from March and April were a mixed bag -- totals from March were revised up a bit, from 142,000 to 138,000, while April's figures were revised down rather significantly, from 165,000 to 149,000.
All told, job creation in May was the best we've seen since February and marks the 39th consecutive month of job growth. For the first five months of the calendar year, the economy has added 946,000 jobs overall, and 972,000 in the private sector.
Above you'll find the chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction -- red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.
Update: Here's another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.