The Department of Labor reported Friday that the unemployment rate rose to 7.6%, despite 175,000 new jobs created during the month of May.
Mark Hamrick, Washington Bureau chief at Bankrate.com, said the conflicting numbers are the result of an increasing labor force, as more people hit the pavement looking for work.
“I thought it was very telling that the payroll number of 175,000 is remarkably close to the 172,000 average over previous months,” he said. “All told, this tells us that the economic recovery is proceeding.”
However, Brian Turner, director and chief strategist at the Plano, Texas-based Catalyst Strategic Solutions, warned that the government removed another 231,000 people from the labor force rolls last month.
“Labor has removed over 8 million people from the ranks over the past few years, accounting for much of the decline in the nation’s unemployment rate,” he said in a Friday release on the topic.
For credit unions, unemployment numbers have two main implications: consumer confidence and its effect on lending, and the Federal Reserve’s overnight rate, which the Fed has said will remain at record lows until unemployment improves beyond a set threshold.
Turner said that while consumer spending increased about 3% during the first quarter, it has decreased 1.8% since March 31. Consumer loans are following a similar trend, gaining 6.6% during the first quarter boosted by auto lending, but Turner said “preliminary data similarly shows that pace trailing off early.”
Hamrick said despite improved economic numbers, it’s still “an open question” whether the Fed will begin tapering its asset purchase program.
“Every time we get a palatable jobs report like this, I think that’s the sort of thing the Fed is looking for,” he said.
However, as the economy and loan demand improves, Hamrick said lenders can expect to see their margins continue to improve as the economy does. However, lending overall will be hampered by big banks, he said, who face conflicting political pressures to increase lending while also increasing capital.