The U.S. economy showed a big gain in jobs last month, but most of them were temporary census workers. President Barack Obama says it nonetheless shows the economy is getting stronger.
The nation's unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of one percent in May, to 9.7 percent. The Labor Department reports that 431,000 jobs were created, the most in years.
Only 41,000 jobs were created in the private sector, however, down from 218,000 in April and the fewest since January.
President Obama says the news is still encouraging.
"While we recognize that our recovery is still in its early stages, and that there are going to be ups and downs in the months ahead-things never go completely in a smooth line-this report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day," said President Obama.
The president visited a commercial truck dealership near Washington Friday. Standing in the garage, he told employees the nation's economy has added jobs in five consecutive months.
"Even if you put those temporary jobs aside, there is no doubt that we saw another month of private sector job growth," said Mr. Obama. "And that is obviously critical."
Opposition Republicans greeted the job gains, but dismissed the idea that the economic recovery is making progress. The top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner, released a statement calling it "disappointing that nearly all of those gains are temporary, taxpayer-funded government jobs." He called private-sector job growth "stagnant."
Mr. Obama, however, says the increased hiring shows that his economic initiatives are having a positive effect.
"What these numbers do mean, though, is that we are moving in the right direction," said President Obama. "The economic policies that we put in place are working. An economy that was shrinking at a scary rate when I was sworn in as president has now been growing for three consecutive quarters."
A recent Associated Press public opinion poll shows that only 20 percent of Americans believe the economy is in good condition.