Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 559,000 jobs in May, and the unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday (June 4). The May increase beat April’s disappointing numbers, which saw an adjusted 278,000 increase.
The BLS Employment Situation Summary added that notable increases in jobs took place in the public and private education and the healthcare and social assistance sector. However, the biggest jobs gains were in leisure and hospitality, with that sector adding 292,000 jobs.
That sector, of course, was hardest hit by the pandemic, as eating and drinking inside in crowded spaces, for example, became viewed as unsafe. Now restrictions are easing and shutdowns are ending. The BLS reported that nearly two-thirds of the jobs turnaround was in food services and drinking establishments.
However, the number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality is down by 2.5 million, or 15 percent, from the level in February 2020, before the pandemic hit.
The jobs recovery is happening in public and private education, as in-person learning and other school-related activities increases in many states. Employment rose by 53,000 jobs in local government education, by 50,000 in state government education, and by 41,000 in private education. However, employment remains way down from February 2020 levels, particularly in local government education — which for now has lost 556,000 jobs. Similarly, employment in state government education is still down 244,000 jobs, while private education remains down by 293,000.
The healthcare and social assistance sector added 46,000 jobs in May. That’s still down by a massive 765,000 since before the pandemic. This sector includes child care services.
The increase in jobs reported by the BLS was lower than The Wall Street Journal’s economic forecasting survey, which estimated that employers added 671,000 jobs.
On the plus side: the ADP National Employment Report said Thursday (June 3) that employment in the private sector expanded by 978,000 in May, far surpassing April’s 654,000. Overall, services were responsible for adding 850,000 jobs and goods-producing sectors gained 128,000 positions.
The ADP survey only looks at the private sector, while the BLS looks at jobs in both the public and private sector.
Many Republican-led states are moving to slash the emergency $300 unemployment benefits the federal government offered to help people during the pandemic. Critics argue the added benefits are keeping workers on the sidelines.
A tried-and-true method for overcoming a perceived labor shortage, however, is offering better pay and benefits. The New York Times reported that teens are picking up jobs as the economy reopens. And employers are raising wages and benefits offered to those teens as they scramble to hire.