Business people with laptop working in cafe, small business, coronavirus and new normal concept.

With the addition of 559,000 jobs, May’s nonfarm employment growth was double that of April, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The unemployment rate fell from 6.1% to 5.8% over the month, representing 9.3 million unemployed people. 

Unemployment rates drop for all major groups

Unemployment rates decreased slightly for most groups in May, with a more significant drop for teenagers, who are likely beginning to secure summer jobs:

  • Adult men: 5.9% (6.1% in April)
  • Adult women: 5.4% (5.6% in April)
  • Teenagers: 9.6% (12.3% in April)
  • Black/African American: 9.1% (9.7% in April)
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.3% (7.9% in April)
  • Asian: 5.5% (5.7% in April)
  • White: 5.1% (5.3% in April)

Pandemic loosens its grip on employment

Both short- and long-term unemployment numbers decreased in May. The number of those unemployed for five weeks or less fell by 391,000 and now totals 2 million. And those who’ve been jobless for six months or more dropped by 431,000 to reach 3.8 million. Long-term unemployed people now account for 40.9% of the total unemployed, down from 43%.

The labor force participation rate inched down in May, from 61.7% to 61.6% — that’s still 1.7% below February 2020’s rate.

The number of employees who teleworked due to the pandemic continued a downward trend last month, falling from 18.3% to 16.6%. So, too, did the number of those unable to work or look for work because of pandemic-related challenges — dropping from 9.4 to 7.9 million people and 2.8 to 2.5 million people, respectively.

Leisure and hospitality continues to recover

As restrictions lifted around the country, the leisure and hospitality industry reclaimed another 292,000 jobs in May, following the 331,000 jobs added in April. Again, most of those jobs were in food and drinking places (186,000), and the industry is now 2.5 million jobs behind its pre-pandemic status.

The majority of other industry sectors experienced job gains for the month, including:

  • Local government education (53,000), state government education (50,000), and private education (41,000)
  • Health care and social assistance (46,000)
  • Information (29,000)
  • Manufacturing (23,000)
  • Transportation and warehousing (23,000)

After a significant loss of 116,000 jobs in April, temporary help services gained back only 4,000 jobs. Construction employment fell by 20,000 jobs in May, and the retail trade suffered a smaller loss of 6,000 jobs. 

Though May’s numbers are a welcome sight after a disappointing April, they still fall short of economists’ predictions. Businesses are reopening, and many Americans have received their vaccines. But challenges like lack of child care and lack of incentives from employers continue to discourage people from returning to the workforce.