06/04/2010 03:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rosy Top-Line Masks Utterly Dismal Employment Numbers

If your entire exposure to the recently-released jobs report has come in the form of breaking news alerts to your inbox, you may be only aware of the part of the story that is not utterly dismal and hopeless. The media has pretty reliably promulgated the top-line statistics involved -- payrolls grew by 431,000 jobs, unemployment rate drops to 9.7 -- but these really bury the less-rosy ledes.

For starters, that 431,000 is a big number that masks the fact that a lot of those jobs were created because of the U.S. Census. And how many new jobs are actually Census jobs? Pretty much all of them!

Per Dean Baker:

The unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in May, primarily as a result of 411,000 temporary Census jobs. The Census hires pushed total job creation for May to 431,000, however the addition of 20,000 non-Census jobs is down sharply from the 217,000 reported for April. Excluding the temporary Census hires, the economy has generated 132,000 jobs a month over the last three months, just a bit more than the amount needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force.

Have America's census workers considered joining the rapidly growing bird-washing and tarball-scooping job sectors? Let's hope so, because 20,000 non-Census jobs is just not going to cut it.

Megan Carpentier piles on:

And if the temporary jobs created by the Census Bureau that are soon to disappear aren't depressing enough, private sector job growth is itself still fueled by temp agencies, which created 31,000 jobs this month. Manufacturing added 29,000, but construction, which is the industry that was supposed to reap the biggest benefits from the stimulus package and jobs bills actually lost 35,000. That offsets all the gains made in construction this year.

Manufacturing is still going strong? Well, it's a really good thing that the European economy is so healthy, right? Because this would be a really bad time for demand to ebb.

Carpentier continues:

And, still, 46 percent of unemployed people have been that way for 26 weeks or more, despite all the Administration's pronouncements that their unemployment isn't structural. Labor force participation is down (despite all those college graduates entering the job market last month), as the same number of people that entered the labor market in April thinking they might be able to get jobs turned around and stopped looking in May because there actually weren't any.

Now, I'd hate to do anything to discourage America's job-seekers any further, but this is the part where I am obligated to highlight this recent story from our own Laura Bassett, who reports that the new new thing in getting a new job is having one already:

In a current job posting on The People Place, a job recruiting website for the telecommunications, aerospace/defense and engineering industries, an anonymous electronics company in Angleton, Texas, advertises for a "Quality Engineer." Qualifications for the job are the usual: computer skills, oral and written communication skills, light to moderate lifting. But red print at the bottom of the ad says, "Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

So, the short version of all of this is that everyone should brush up on their pelican-washing skills. The end.

Unemployment Falls to 9.7 Percent, But Private Sector Job Growth Slows
Excluding Census workers, job growth has just kept pace with the growth in the labor force over the last 3 months
. [Dean Baker]
Worrying Unemployment Report Should Scare Democrats [Attackerman]

Disturbing Job Ads: 'The Unemployed Will Not Be Considered'

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]