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US employment back to pre-crisis level


Employers in the US kept up a solid pace of hiring in May, returning employment to its pre-recession level and adding weight to evidence that the economy has snapped back from a winter slump.

Non-farm payrolls increased by 217,000 last month, the Labor Department said today, after what was a poorer start to the year.

“That suggests the first  quarter was an anomaly in terms of what the economy was and we are back to a decent pace of job creation. Overall it’s a pretty solid report,” said John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial in Boston. May marked a fourth straight month of job gains above 200,000 even though there were fewer gains than the 282,000 seen in April, when hiring was still bouncing back from a winter lull.

The nation finally recouped the 8.7m jobs lost during the recession, with 8.8m more people in work now than at the trough in February 2010. The working age population has risen 10.6 million since then, though, and 12.8 million people have left the labor force.

“The trajectory of this recovery is still slower than all other ones,” said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “That’s not going to change and it’s not fast enough to bring back a lot of the workers who stopped looking any time soon.”

The pace of hiring adds to data ranging from car sales to services and factory sector activity that have suggested economic growth this quarter will top a 3.0 per cent annual pace.

The economy contracted by 1 per cent rate in the first  quarter, dragged down by unusually harsh winter weather and slow inventory building by businesses.

The unemployment rate held steady at a 5-year low of 6.3 per cent in May, which will be welcomed by the Federal Reserve.