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The "soft underbelly" of April's jobs report

Daily Ticker

At first blush today's jobs report is just what the economy has been waiting for: a big drop in the unemployment rate -- to 6.3%, the lowest in more than five and half years -- and a big jump in payrolls (they swelled by 288,000 -- the most since January 2012).

"The trend is pointing in the right direction [but] it's probably not quite as strong as that 288,000 number would suggest," says Neil Irwin, senior economic correspondent at The New York Times. "We're seeing steady growth but not gangbusters."

Related: The three ways to fix the U.S. economy: Dean Baker

Indeed, the three-month average gain in nonfarm payrolls is 238,000 -- far less than April's 288,000 increase.

And within the latest jobs report is a "soft underbelly," which Irwin discusses in the video above. The labor participation rate, which essentially measures the size of the labor force, contracted for the first time in four months, to 62.8% -- the level in December 2013.

"That's the most disappointing thing" in today's jobs report, says Irwin. "We'd like to see is the labor force rising and people ultimately finding jobs."

Related: Low wage jobs dominate the U.S. economic recovery

Also, average hourly earnings, which had been rising, were flat along with the length of the average workweek. Earnings had been rising 1.9% year-over-year, but that is only slightly above the inflation rate.

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"All these years after the recession, which ended almost five years ago, Americans still aren't seeing meaningful wage gains," says Irwin. "American workers are desperate for a raise and they're not getting it quite yet."

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