By Scott Neuman

NPR, the two-way, June 5, 2015 — The U.S. economy got 280,000 new jobs in May, comfortably beating economists’ expectations. Even so, the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5 percent, according to the latest Labor Department report.

Economists had expected 226,000 new jobs, and they thought the unemployment rate would hold steady at 5.4 percent. The latest figure also outpaces April’s revised number of 221,000.

The leisure and hospitality sector gained 57,000 new jobs and arts, entertainment and recreation was up 29,000. Retail added 31,000 jobs, and there were 17,000 new positions in the construction sector.

The civilian labor force saw 397,000 more people enter the labor force, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says, but the labor participation rate was barely changed at 62.9 percent.

The latest figures follow a report on Thursday that unemployment claims had dropped, an indication that employers were confident in retaining workers. The Labor Department said claims had dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 276,000.

The manufacturing workweek was unchanged at 40.7 hours. Wages for private, nonfarm payrolls rose by 8 cents, to $24.96.

The Associated Press says May’s strong job growth “suggests that employers remained confident enough to keep hiring even after the economy shrank during the first three months of the year. The government also revised up its estimate of job growth in March and April by a combined net 32,000. notes: “Some investors have been watching the three month average of 191,000 on the low end, and note that any print under this level would be a negative sign for the U.S. economy. To get economic observers, yield curve traders note that the upside jobs gains would need to move well past the 255,000 six month moving average for nonfarm payrolls and show a print above 300,000.”

According to MarketWatch:

“Although hiring has tapered off since the end of 2014, the economy has still added nearly 200,000 jobs a month through the first four months of this year. And economists predict a 210,000 increase in May when the government on Friday publishes its monthly employment report.

“That’s more than enough, economists say, to push the nation’s 5.4% unemployment even lower over time.

“Still, nearly 17 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, an unusually high number after six years of economic expansion. Companies aren’t hiring as fast as they post job openings, and many complain about a shortage of skilled workers.”