Economy Adds 2.5 Million Jobs as COVID-19 Recovery Begins

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The U.S. economy added 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, surprising some experts and shattering most predictions.

The new jobs report credits the increase in employment to the limited reopening of the economy, which had been sharply curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain the disease.

But although these numbers are headed in the right direction, the crisis is not over yet.

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So what sectors saw the largest turnaround?

Leisure and Hospitality: +1.2 million jobs (compared to 7.7 million lost in April)

Construction: +464,000 jobs (compared to 975,000 lost in April)

Education and health services: +424,000 jobs (compared to 2.5 million lost in April)

Retail trade: +368,000 jobs (-2.1 million in April)

Manufacturing: +225,000 jobs (-1.3 million in April)

Professional and business services: +127,000 jobs (-2.1 million in April)

Transportation and warehousing: -19,000 jobs (-584,000 in April)

Out of the 20.5 million total jobs lost in April, 18.1 million (88%) were those of workers who were laid off temporarily. Now we see that, in May, the number of temporary layoffs decreased by 2.7 million. 

However, the number of “permanent” job losses continued to rise, increasing by 295,000 to 2.3 million.

Over 1.7 million Americans entered the workforce in May, according to the report. This increased the labor force participation rate by 0.6 percentage points to 60.8%, compared to 63.4% in January before COVID-19 struck. 

In addition, the U-6 unemployment rate—which measures both the unemployed who are looking actively for a job and those who are unemployed but not actively seeking work—dipped from a high of 22.8% to 21.2%.  

The number of unemployed persons on temporary layoff decreased in May by 2.7 million, to 15.3 million, following a sharp increase of 16.2 million in April. Among those not temporarily laid off, the number of workers who “permanently” lost their jobs continued to rise, increasing by 295,000 to a total of 2.3 million.  

Although the positive news is a welcome change, the recovery is still a long ways ahead. Policymakers must be laser-focused on facilitating growth in employment rather than impeding it.

More than 20 million Americans remain unemployed, and they are better served by employment opportunities than unemployment incentives.

Lawmakers should not jump to extend the problematic unemployment insurance bonuses of $600 that are hurting small businesses as they try to rehire workers who are making more from unemployment.

Instead, Congress should hit the brakes, fix mistakes that are impeding economic recovery, and look to more targeted measures to reduce unemployment and its consequences.

The Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission has put together a resource that lists recommendations for the government to follow, not only to protect the lives but the livelihood of Americans.  

So although recovery has a long way to go, the new jobs report shows what can happen when government gets out of the way and allows business owners to reopen safely. 


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