The monthly tally makes no distinction between full-time and part-time jobs, nor does it consider how much those jobs pay compared with the ones that have been lost.
A report by Automated Data Processing on Wednesday had spurred some observers to lower their expectations for the BLS report, even though ADP's survey's record of meshing with the government report is not auspicious. ADP had reported 135,000 new jobs added in May by the private sector.
Besides the headline unemployment rate—known at the BLS as U3—of 7.6 percent, there is another BLS metric known as U6, a measure of underemployment that includes part-time workers who need full-time work but can't find it, as well as a portion of discouraged workers. U6 clocked in at 13.8 percent, down from a revised 13.9 percent in April.
The reported 165,000 jobs gained in April was revised to 149,000. Gains in March were revised from 138,000 to 142,000.
Those unemployed for six months or more held steady at 4.4 million. The civilian labor force participation ratio rose slightly to 63.4 percent, still its lowest level since 1979; the employment-population ratio was unchanged at 58.6 percent. If the participation rate had remained at the pre-recession level, the unemployment rate would now be 9.7 percent.
Add up the 11.8 million who are officially unemployed (U3), the 7.9 million underemployed (U6), and the 6.4 million not in the labor force but who want a job, and the total is 26.1 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.
Among other news in today's job report:
• Professional services: +57,000
• Leisure & hospitality: +38,000
• Health care: +11,000
• Retail trade: +28,000
• Construction: +7,000
• Average workweek (for production and non-supervisory workers) was unchanged at 34.4 hours.
• Average manufacturing hours rose 0.1 to 40.8 hours.
• Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was up 1 cent from April's revised figure to $23.89.
Adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages have been nearly flat for four years.
The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of more than 410,000 business establishments called Current Employment Statistics, and one called the Current Population Survey, which questions 60,000 householders each month. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added. It is always calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis determined by a frequently tweaked formula. The CPS provides data that determine the official "headline" unemployment rate, the one denoted as "U3." That's the number which is now 7.6 percent.
The BLS report only provides a snapshot of what's happening at a single point in time.
It's important to understand that the jobs-created-last-month-numbers that it reports are not "real." Not because of a conspiracy, but because statisticians apply formulas to the raw data, estimate the number of jobs created by the "birth" and "death" of businesses, and use other filters to fine-tune the numbers. And, always good to remember, in the fine print, they tell us that the actual number of newly created jobs reported is actually plus or minus 100,000.
Plus there are the revisions. In the past eight months, from the first take on the monthly jobs gains until the final revision, the BLS has been off as little as 4 percent and as much as 38 percent.
Here's what the job growth numbers looked like in May for the previous 10 years. These data have been recalculated via the BLS's benchmark revisions:
May 2003: - 10,000
May 2004: +306,000
May 2005: +168,000
May 2006: + 21,000
May 2007: +141,000
May 2008: -186,000
May 2009: -352,000
May 2010: +521,000 (strong Census hiring)
May 2011: +115,000
May 2012: +125,000
May 2013: +175,000
This chart shows the civilian population-to-employment ratio.