The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% in May, slightly below the April high of 14.7%, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employers added 2.5 million jobs last month as economic activity slowly resumes and coronavirus pandemic restrictions ease.
The numbers represent a much more optimistic view for the economy moving forward. President Donald Trump tweeted after the report was released, writing, “Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”
While the unemployment figures may be lower than expected, economists warn they are still at devastating highs.
“Although today’s report feels like a relief for many, it’s important to remember the labor market still faces an unemployment rate at the highest level since the Great Depression with tens of millions of Americans still out of work,” Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said in a commentary Friday morning. “While the labor market may be on the path to recovery, there is still a long way to go until the labor market returns to pre-crisis levels and makes up for lost growth.”
Chris Zaccarelli, the chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, called the jobs numbers “shocking” and “for the first time this year it was a positive shock.”
“At 13.3%, we are still at a higher rate than any that we hit during the Financial Crisis in 2007-2009, but as long as that continues to move lower, it will show that the re-opening of the economy is proceeding smoothly,” he added.
Some of the most notable job gains in May occurred in leisure and hospitality, construction and retail trade as those sectors begin to reopen.
“These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the government said in its news release Friday.
The leisure and hospitality sector saw an increase of 1.2 million jobs in May after losses of 7.5 million jobs in April. Food and drinking places gained 1.4 million jobs last month after losing more than 6 million jobs in March and April combined.
Employment in construction increased by 464,000 in May, gaining back almost half of the jobs lost in April. Meanwhile, employment in retail rose by 368,000 last month but lost more than 2 million jobs in April.
The accommodation industry, however, lost 148,000 jobs last month and 1.1 million jobs in total since February.
Some economists are still taking a more measured outlook on the economy.
“As the economy reopens a lot of the jobs aren’t going to come back right away. A lot of people are still trying to figure out … how do they operate it safely and in compliance,” Karen Kimbrough, the chief economist at LinkedIn, told ABC News. “And they may not need as many people or they may need different types of people.”
Jasmine Wright, a small business owner from Akron, Ohio, who was able to reopen her clothing boutique last Friday, said sales are still down despite reopening.
“COVID has affected my business with a lot of sale,” Wright told ABC News. “I went from being open every day into just not being able to open at all not being able to engage with my customers.”