The White House acknowledged Friday that the economy grew at a “disappointingly low” rate in May, blaming a strike by Verizon workers in part for the sluggish performance.
Jason Furman, the top economic adviser to President Obama, said the telecommunications strike and “volatility in monthly data” contributed to job growth that was “considerably below” expectations. Employers added only 38,000 jobs in May, the lowest gain in five years.
Striking Verizon workers were considered to be unemployed because they did not receive a salary during the reporting period. They returned to their jobs Wednesday.
Even without the strike, payrolls would have increased by only 72,000 jobs, far below recent monthly gains.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent from 5 percent, the Labor Department said Friday. But the drop was mainly because nearly 500,000 people stopped looking for work.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, said the jobs report is “troubling news.”
“With job growth slowing, involuntary part time work rising, and the labor force shrinking, this proves that our economy isn’t creating opportunity for all Americans,” Mr. Brady said. “After seven years of the Obama administration’s slow-growth policies, our economy is at a standstill while our global competitors are propelling forward.”
He said the House will unveil “pro-growth solutions” beginning next week.
Mr. Furman said payroll growth has averaged 150,000 jobs a month so far this year, “well above the pace necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate.”
He said the weak economic report is a reminder that Congress should approve more of Mr. Obama’s agenda, including “investing in infrastructure and job training, implementing high-standards trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and raising the minimum wage.”
The weak jobs report came just two days after Mr. Obama trumpeted his economic leadership during a trip to Elkhart, Indiana.
“Despite President Obama’s victory lap in Elkhart this week, this jobs report again confirms that our national economy is struggling because of this administration’s policies,” said Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “The national labor force participation rate fell further, wiping out recent gains.”