The current trucking employment level is close to its pre-recession peak, while nationwide employers added more jobs during May.

According to a new Labor Department report, 280,000 non-farm jobs were added last month. April’s job gains were downwardly revised slightly to 221,000.

Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate inched higher as more people returned to the labor force and began looking for employment. This caused the unemployment rate to rise slightly, from 5.4% in April to 5.5% in May.

Job gains occurred in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care. Employment in mining continued to decline.

The number of jobs in for-hire trucking increased by 8,600 during the month, following a downwardly revised April performance of 1,700 jobs added. The current trucking employment level is close to its pre-recession peak.

The wider transportation and warehousing sector added 13,100 jobs in May, following an increase of 10,700 in April.

In his Twitter feet, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello described the overall performance as a “solid May jobs report” that should soon translate into better wage growth.

Over the past 12 months, wages have increased 2.3%, still below the pre-recession level of 3%.

“The rise in May nonfarm payrolls was above the very muted expectation for the month, although the underlying momentum was hardly enough to drag the three-month average noticeably above 200,000,” said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at the investment firm Sterne Agee. “The May rise was a step in the right direction from the more pronounced weakness in March, but it remains a significant step in the wrong direction from the 324,000 pace at the end of last year."

She said from the Federal Reserve’s perspective, the modest but positive trend in employment reinforces the Chairman's assessment that the labor market has made vast improvement since the end of the Great Recession, but much improvement remains to be made.

“Improvement from recessionary levels, but far from outright strength, is hardly the foundation to justify a near-term [interest] rate hike. In other words, surpassing a low bar of expectations is not synonymous with an economy strong enough to withstand a rising rate environment,” she said. “Taken together with dilapidated household spending, muted business investment, as well as nonexistent inflation, modest employment gains will not be enough to signal it's time for a change in policy. At least not yet.”

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