Economic data from Europe and Asia also came in weak, and traders sold all types of risky investments and stampeded toward the safety of U.S. government bonds. Bond prices rose sharply. And the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note touched 1.44 percent, the lowest on record.
Those sinking bond yields will mean even lower mortgage rates. That's because mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.
— Daniel Wagner, AP Business Writer
SOME BENEFITS FOR CONSUMERS
Gas is getting cheaper as demand slows globally. It's dropped to $2.99 in some areas of South Carolina. It could soon fall below $3 in a handful of Southern states.
A plunge in oil prices has knocked more than 30 cents off the price of a gallon of gas in most parts of the U.S. since early April. The national average is now $3.61. Experts say it could drop to at least $3.40 before Labor Day.
As Americans spend less to fill their tanks, they'll have more to spend on other purchases, from autos and furniture to appliances and vacations, which could help drive economic output and job growth.
— Sandy Shore, AP Business Writer
BACK IN THE HUNT: OLDER WORKERS
Last month, 642,000 people began looking for work. And nearly half were 55 or older.
Many have had no choice. Household wealth has shrunk as home equity and stocks prices have declined or languished. And many older people are helping struggling adult children.
Sara Rix, a policy analyst at the AARP's Public Policy Institute, suggested that the decline in unemployment in previous months lifted people's hopes about their job prospects. That's why many started looking for work again.
— Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
A SOBERING TREND
That more people are looking for work should be good news. It suggests that Americans are increasingly optimistic about their job prospects.
But analysts cautioned that May's influx was a small one that doesn't alter the broader trend. Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, estimates that sluggish hiring has discouraged 3.6 million people from looking for work since the recession began in December 2007.
Consider the labor force participation rate. It measures the proportion of people who are working or looking for work. It rose last month to 63.8 percent. That's slightly better than April's 63.6 percent — the lowest in more than 30 years.
Yet it's still far below the 65.7 percent rate from June 2009, the final month of the recession.
DUELING POLITICAL VIEWS
Obama said the jobs report shows the U.S. economy is not creating jobs "as fast as we want" but that the economy will improve.
"We will come back stronger," Obama said. "We do have better days ahead."
His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, countered: "Today's weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families. ...It is now clear to everyone that President Obama's policies have failed to achieve their goals and that the Obama economy is crushing America's middle class."
— Jim Kuhnhenn, White House Correspondent
GOVERNMENT ISN'T HELPING
Government jobs cuts are worsening the employment picture. The federal government shed 5,000 jobs in May. State governments cut 5,000 and local governments 3,000.
Overall, governments have cut jobs in 10 of the past 12 months.
Tax collections by state and local governments have been rising since mid-2009. Yet governments have steadily reduced spending. From January through March, government cuts reduced U.S. economic growth by 0.78 percent point to an annual pace of just 1.9 percent.
— Paul Wiseman, AP Economics Writer
BIG CUTS IN CONSTRUCTION
Some major industries cut jobs sharply in May.
Construction firms cut 28,000 jobs. That was the sharpest such drop in two years.