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BLS Report – May 2021

Unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 5.8 percent in May

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 559,000 in May, and the unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage point to 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in public and private education, and in health care and social assistance. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020).

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff declined by 291,000 to 1.8 million in May. This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 1.1 million higher than in February 2020. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was essentially unchanged at 5.3 million in May but is 873,000 higher than in February 2020. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

In May, 7.9 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic—that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 9.4 million in the previous month. Among those who reported in May that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 9.3 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, unchanged from the previous month.

INDUSTRY FOCUS

  • In May, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 292,000, as pandemic-related restrictions
    continued to ease in some parts of the country. Nearly two-thirds of the increase was in food services
    and drinking places (+186,000).
  • Employment increased in public and private education, reflecting the continued resumption of in-person learning and other school-related activities in some parts of the country.
  • Health care and social assistance added 46,000 jobs in May. Employment in health care continued to
    trend up (+23,000), reflecting a gain in ambulatory health care services (+22,000). Social assistance
    added 23,000 jobs over the month, largely in child day care services (+18,000).
  • Manufacturing employment rose by 23,000 in May but is down by 509,000 from its level in
    February 2020.
  • Construction employment edged down in May (-20,000), reflecting a job loss in nonresidential
    specialty trade contractors (-17,000). Employment in construction is 225,000 lower than in February
    2020.
  • Employment in professional and business services changed little in May (+35,000). Within the
    industry, employment continued to trend up in accounting and bookkeeping services (+14,000).
    Employment in temporary help services changed little over the month (+4,000), following a large
    decline in April (-116,000). Overall, employment in professional and business services is down by
    708,000 since February 2020.
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics, THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — May 2021
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