Unemployment rate matches lowest point in half a century

WASHINGTON DC — How low can we go?

The jobless rate inched down to 3.8% in May, another sign of the strong economy and tight labor market. That tied the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. Since then, the only other time unemployment was this low was in April 2000.

The economy added 223,000 jobs, better than economists expected.

“The US economy has this incredible head of steam,” said Josh Wright, chief economist at the software firm iCIMS.

The economy been expanding for almost nine years, the second-longest streak on record. And employers have added jobs every month for seven and a half years.

Wages grew 2.7% in May compared with a year earlier. Wage growth has picked up in recent months, but economists have been puzzled for a long time about why it isn’t climbing faster. In a job market this tight, employers are typically forced to pay much more to attract workers.

Economists believe that the unemployment rate still has more room to fall.

The job gains were broad. Over the past year, the economy has added an average 191,000 jobs a month.

A little more than an hour before the report was officially released, President Trump broke with precedent by saying on Twitter, “Looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.”

Bond yields jumped almost immediately after Trump’s tweet. The dollar also moved higher.

The jobs report is kept under wraps until the Labor Department publishes it at 8:30 a.m. ET, in part so that investors can’t get a jump on the data before it becomes public. A federal rule says executive branch employees are not supposed to comment on major economic reports until an hour after they are released.