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May US employment rose in hospitality, construction, education, retail, and health services

The May jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also notes that in contrast, “employment in government has continued to decline sharply.”

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The US unemployment rate declined by 1.4 percentage points to 13.3% in May, and the number of unemployed people fell by 2.1 million to 21 million, according to the May Jobs Report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Non-farm employment increased by 2.5 million in May.

Unemployment rose dramatically in March (job losses of 1.4 million) and April (losses of 20.7 million), due to the coronavirus pandemic and the efforts to contain it.

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But since February, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed rose by 9.8 percentage points and 15.2 million jobs, respectively.

In May, employment continued to decline in government on both a national, state, and local level, following April’s drop. 

One of the hardest hit industries during the crisis was leisure and hospitality, but in May there was1.2 million in job increases, after losses in March (743,000) and April (7.5 million).

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Adult men fared the best in the decline of unemployment:

  • adult men 11.6%
  • adult women 13.9%
  • Whites 12.4% 
  • Hispanics 17.6%

There was very little change in the jobless rates for teens (29.9%), Blacks (16.8%), and Asians (15%). 

The figures for temporary layoffs of the unemployed also decreased by 2.7 million in May to 15.3 million, following a sharp increase of 16.2 million in April. However, the number of permanent job losers continued to rise, increasing by 295,000 in May to 2.3 million.

Wins and losses

May marked a rise in employment in the construction industry, gaining nearly all losses from April. Growth was divided between residential and non-residential. Residential-building construction saw job gains, too.

Education and health services jobs increased in May, too (after a 2.6 million loss in April).


The BLS noted gains in employment for:

  • dentists
  • offices of other health practitioners
  • offices of physicians
  • the social assistance industry
  • child day care services
  • individual services
  • family services 
  • private education
  • the construction industry, residential and non-residential
  • personal and laundry services
  • the retail industry
  • manufacturing with successes in durable goods

    • motor vehicles and parts

    • fabricated metal products

    • machinery

    • plastics and rubber products

    • food manufacturing

    • services to buildings and dwellings

    • temporary help services

  • real estate, rental, and leasing

  • wholesale trade employment

  • couriers and messengers

  • transit and ground passenger transportation


Job losses continued in:

  • education

  • hospitals

  • nursing and residential care facilities

  • electronics and appliance stores

  • auto parts

  • accessories

  • tire stores 

  • manufacturing, primarily durable goods

  • management of company and enterprises

  • information

  • mining

  • transportation and warehousing

  • air transportation

Full-time and part-time updates

Figures for part-time employees who work for economic reasons didn’t change much in May (10.6 million), but that reflects an uptick of 6.3 million since February. The report stated that these part-time individuals would prefer full-time work, but because of reduced hours or lack of available full-time jobs, had to take the part-time work. 

The number of currently unemployed job seekers is at 9 million, a decline by 954,000 in May, after an increase by 4.4 million in April. The BLS didn’t count them as unemployed because they weren’t actively looking for a job in the last four weeks or were not available to take a job. 

The BLS calls a subset of people who aren’t in the labor force “marginally attached” (and not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work), and had looked for a job some time 12 months earlier but not in the four weeks preceding the survey numbered 2.4 million in May, about the same numbers as in April. Those who the  BLS dub “discouraged workers,” a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, numbered 662,000 in May, little changed from the previous month. 

Those who were unemployed for less than five weeks increased 2.2 million, from 116.5 million, and those who usually work part-time rose by 1.6 million to 20.7 million. Part-time workers accounted for about 40% of the over-the-month employment growth.

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