US non-farm payrolls rose by 217k in May, very close to consensus. Still, this is a bit of a relief, as earlier indicators this week on balance pointed towards some downward risk. This is the fourth month in a row with job growth above 200k. This includes the winter bounce back, however. Average job growth over the past 6 months is 192k, which is a continuation of the trend growth seen since early 2011. A major hallmark today is that the total number of jobs finally rose above the pre-crisis peak of 138.4m jobs reached in January 2008.
Unemployment held steady at 6.3%, which is a modest positive surprise. Given the strong 0.4% drop in unemployment last month, we did not exclude an upward correction today. The inactive-to-total-population ratio among the key 25-54 age group did worsen slightly from 23.5% last month to 23.6% in May, but other broad measures of participation remained unchanged.
In total, this is a solid report showing the continuing gradual improvement of the US labour market. Given this ongoing improvement and the low level of unemployment, wage growth has been unusually lacklustre for some time now. Today does not change that picture. Wages increased 0.2%MoM, but are still up only 2.1% over a year ago, which has been average wage growth for several years. There simply is no evidence of wage inflation yet. Consequently, we see little likelihood that the Fed will deviate from their established $10bn per meeting taper pace at the upcoming FOMC-meeting (18-19 June).