The U.S. unemployment rate increased slightly during May, rising by one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.2 percent.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department said the U.S. economy had a net gain of just 69,000 jobs during the month – the smallest in a year.
Government data says 12.7 million Americans are unemployed, with four out of ten of them unable to find work for 27 weeks or more.
Economists say job gains are needed to give consumers the confidence they need to make purchases, and to encourage businesses to make investments that lead to new hiring.
Republicans blamed President Barack Obama’s policies for weak economic growth. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the administration’s approach has “failed” and “is crushing the middle class.”
Obama acknowledged the country’s labor market is not improving as quickly as he would like.
“The economy’s growing again but it’s not growing as fast as we want it to grow. Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but as we learned in today’s jobs report we’re still not creating them as fast as we want. And just like at this time last year, our economy is still facing some serious headwinds,” Obama said.
He said spikes in gasoline prices, which now have diminished somewhat, and Europe’s stagnant economy have hurt U.S. economic prospects.
The chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, said the economy has gained non-government jobs every month for more than two years, recovering about half of the positions lost during the 2008 recession. He urged Congress to approve Obama’s program for bolstering growth, which includes tax breaks for small businesses that hire new people and streamlined procedures for homeowners who need to refinance their mortgages.