A wave of census hiring lifted payrolls by 431,000 in May, but job creation by private companies grew at the slowest pace since the start of the year. The unemployment rate dipped to 9.7 percent as people gave up searching for work.
The Labor Department's new employment snapshot released Friday suggested that outside of the burst of hiring of temporary census workers by the federal government many private employers are wary of bulking up their work forces.
That indicates the economic recovery may not bring relief fast enough for millions of Americans who are unemployed.
Virtually all the job creation in May came from the hiring of 411,000 census workers. Such hiring peaked in May and will begin tailing off in June.
By contrast, hiring by private employers, the backbone of the economy, slowed sharply. They added just 41,000 jobs, down from 218,000 in April and the fewest since January.