The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.8% in May, down from 6.1% in April, while total nonfarm payrolls increased by 559,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report released Friday.
Employment growth improved relative to April, when the economy gained 278,000 jobs — well short of economists’ expectations.
Still, overall employment has yet to recover from the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. National unemployment in February 2020, prior to the onset of the pandemic, was 3.5% with nearly 4 million fewer Americans unemployed.
Thanks to ebbing health restrictions, the leisure and hospitality sector saw the most added jobs in May, at 292,000 nationally, with most of those in food and drink services. There are still 2.5 million fewer people employed in leisure and hospitality than there were before the pandemic.
While employment is rising again in education, the effects of remote schooling remain. There are 556,000 fewer workers employed in local government education compared to February 2020, with significant disparities in the state and private levels as well.
Sizable gains were also made in the health care and social assistance sector, which added 46,000 jobs last month, although health care employment is still down by 508,000 compared to pre-pandemic job numbers.