Hospitality and Leisure Spur U.S. Job Gains in May as Unemployment Rate Falls

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U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May, slightly below economists’ expectations but still blowing past April’s dismal numbers as the economy continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent in May, better than the 6.1 percent it hit in April but still well above pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Economists expected 671,000 new jobs to be added in May and the unemployment rate to drop to 5.9 percent, MarketWatch reported. While May’s job additions missed that mark they were still far ahead of the 278,000 jobs added in April.

Small businesses have reported an inability to fill jobs in recent months, with some suggesting the increased unemployment benefits as the culprit, but surveys suggest workers still fear contracting COVID-19, don’t have access to child care with schools closed, and lack of skills for the jobs available.

Employment in leisure and hospitality saw particularly huge gains in May, with  292,000 jobs added as states around the country continue to lift pandemic restrictions, according to the Labor Department. Most of those increases came from food services and drinking establishments, which saw 186,000 more jobs in May.

The improved job numbers came the same week the Labor Department reported that jobless claims dropped to a pandemic low of 385,000. It marked the fifth week in a row the number of new unemployment filings dropped nationwide, The Wall Street Journal reported.