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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Transmission of material in this statement is embargoed until 
8:30 a.m. (ET) June 5, 2020.

                            Statement of

                          William W. Beach
                     Bureau of Labor Statistics

                        Friday, June 5, 2020

      Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2.5 million in May, 
and the unemployment rate declined by 1.4 percentage points to 
13.3 percent. 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.
      In May, employment rose in several major industry sectors, 
with the largest gains in leisure and hospitality, construction, 
education and health services, and retail trade. By contrast, 
employment in government continued to decline sharply.
      To put the May employment gain of 2.5 million in context, 
substantial job losses related to the coronavirus pandemic 
started in March, as payroll employment declined by 1.4 million, 
as revised. Job losses deepened considerably in April, as 
nonfarm employment plummeted by an additional 20.7 million, as 
revised. At 132.9 million in May, total nonfarm employment is 
nearly 20 million (or 13 percent) lower than in February, before 
the pandemic crisis unfolded in many parts of the United States. 
Furthermore, although unemployment fell in May, the unemployment 
rate and the number of unemployed people are up by 9.8 
percentage points and 15.2 million, respectively, since 
      The response rate for the household survey continued to be 
adversely affected by pandemic-related issues. The response rate 
for the establishment survey was slightly below normal for May.
      Changes made to the estimation methods for the 
establishment survey in April to better account for temporary or 
permanent business closures were kept in place for May. In 
addition, after further research, BLS extended these changes 
back to March, which accounted for a portion of the revision to 
March data. The impacts of the pandemic on the household and 
payroll surveys are detailed in the May Employment Situation 
news release and accompanying materials (available on the BLS 
website at 
Importantly, for both surveys, in May we were still able to 
obtain estimates that meet BLS standards for accuracy and 
      Taking a closer look at the May payroll data, within the 
leisure and hospitality industry, food services and drinking 
places added 1.4 million jobs, after losing 5.4 million jobs in 
April and 633,000 jobs in March. In contrast, employment 
continued to decline in the accommodation industry in May 
(-148,000) and has fallen by 1.1 million over the past 3 months.

      In May, construction employment increased by 464,000, 
recouping about half of the decline in April (-995,000). Job 
gains occurred among all the component industries in May.  
Notable job growth occurred in specialty trade contractors 
(+325,000), with gains about equally split between the 
residential and nonresidential components. Construction of 
buildings added 105,000 jobs.
      Employment increased by 424,000 in education and health 
services in May, after a decrease of 2.6 million in April. 
Health care employment rose by 312,000, with increases in 
offices of dentists (+245,000), offices of other health 
practitioners (+73,000), and offices of physicians (+51,000). 
Elsewhere in health care, job losses continued in nursing and 
residential care facilities (-37,000) and in hospitals 
(-27,000). Employment in social assistance increased by 78,000 
over the month, reflecting gains in child day care services 
(+44,000) and individual and family services (+29,000). 
Employment in private education rose by 33,000 over the month.

      Employment in retail trade rose by 368,000 in May, 
following a loss of 2.3 million in the prior month. Employment 
rose in several retail industries in May, including clothing 
stores (+95,000), automobile dealers (+85,000), general 
merchandise stores (+84,000), building material and garden 
supply stores (+56,000), and miscellaneous store retailers 
(+55,000). By contrast, employment declined in electronics and 
appliance stores (-95,000); auto parts, accessories, and tire 
stores (-36,000); and health and personal care stores (-22,000).
      In May, employment in the other services industry increased 
by 272,000, after declining by 1.3 million in April. Two-thirds 
of the over-the-month job gain occurred in personal and laundry 
services (+182,000).
      Manufacturing employment rose by 225,000 in May, following 
a decline of 1.3 million in April. The job gains in May were 
about equally split between the durable and nondurable goods 
components. Within durable goods, employment increased in motor 
vehicles and parts (+28,000), fabricated metal products 
(+25,000), and machinery (+23,000). Within nondurable goods, job 
gains occurred in plastics and rubber products (+30,000), food 
manufacturing (+25,000), and printing and related support 
activities (+16,000).
      Professional and business services added 127,000 jobs in 
May, after losing 2.2 million jobs in April. Just over half of 
the job gain in May occurred in services to buildings and 
dwellings (+68,000). Additionally, employment increased in 
temporary help services (+39,000). By contrast, job losses 
continued in management of companies and enterprises (-22,000) 
and computer systems design (-13,000).
      Over the month, employment in financial activities rose by 
33,000, following a decline of 264,000 in April. In May, most of 
the job gain occurred in real estate and rental and leasing 
      Wholesale trade employment increased by 21,000 in May, with 
the nondurable goods component adding 13,000 jobs. Wholesale 
trade employment declined by 383,000 in April.
      Government employment continued to fall over the month, as 
a decline of 585,000 in May followed a decrease of 963,000 in 
April. The bulk of the employment declines occurred in local 
government, which lost 487,000 jobs in May and 797,000 jobs in 
April. Local government employment declines over the 2 months 
mainly reflected school closures. Employment in state government 
was down by 84,000 in May, particularly in state education 

      Employment in information fell by 38,000 in May. The 
industry shed 272,000 jobs in April.
      Mining also continued to lose jobs in May (-20,000), mostly 
in support activities for mining (-16,000). Mining employment 
has declined by 77,000 over the past 3 months.
      Employment in transportation and warehousing fell by 19,000 
in May, after declining by 553,000 in April. Employment in air 
transportation fell sharply in May (-50,000), following a loss 
of 79,000 in the prior month. In May, job gains occurred in 
couriers and messengers (+12,000) and transit and ground 
passenger transportation (+10,000).
      Average weekly hours for all private-sector workers showed 
an increase of 0.5 hour in May. There were notable increases in 
the average workweek for leisure and hospitality (+1.5 hours), 
construction (+1.0 hour), manufacturing (+0.8 hour), and retail 
trade (+0.8 hour).
      One should use caution when interpreting changes in the 
workweek at the total private nonfarm level. While employees in 
most industries saw an increase in their workweeks in May, large 
employment changes in industries with shorter-than-average 
workweeks can complicate monthly comparisons of the average 
weekly hours figures.
      Similarly, our estimates of average hourly earnings for May 
must be interpreted with caution. Average hourly earnings of all 
employees on private nonfarm payrolls declined by 29 cents in 
May to $29.75, following a gain of $1.35 in April. The increase 
in average hourly earnings in April largely reflects the 
disproportionate number of lower-paid workers who went off 
payrolls, which put upward pressure on the total private average 
hourly earnings estimate. In May, some of these workers returned 
to payrolls, which put downward pressure on average hourly 
earnings, though the effect is more muted given the smaller 
magnitude of the employment change. The large changes in 
employment in recent months make it difficult to discern longer-
term trends in the hours and earnings measures.
      Turning to the labor market indicators from the household 
survey, the unemployment rate declined by 1.4 percentage points 
to 13.3 percent in May. This follows a record-high increase of 
10.3 percentage points in April. The number of unemployed people 
decreased by 2.1 million in May, after increasing by 15.9 
million in April.
      The decrease in unemployment in May was driven by a decline 
among people on temporary layoff (-2.7 million). The decline was 
offset slightly by increases in the number of job losers not on 
temporary layoff, especially permanent job losers, which rose by 
295,000 to 2.3 million. The number of new entrants to 
unemployment rose slightly in May, to 536,000, essentially 
returning to its March level.
      The unemployment rate fell in May for adult men (11.6 
percent), adult women (13.9 percent), Whites (12.4 percent), and 
Hispanics (17.6 percent). The rates for teenagers (29.9 
percent), Blacks (16.8 percent), and Asians (15.0 percent) 
changed little over the month.
      Among the unemployed, the number of people searching for 
work for less than 5 weeks declined by 10.4 million to 3.9 
million in May. These individuals made up 18.5 percent of the 
unemployed in May. The number of unemployed people who were 
jobless 5 to 14 weeks more than doubled, increasing by 7.8 
million to 14.8 million, and accounted for 70.8 percent of the 
unemployed in May. The number of people searching for work for 
27 weeks or more rose to 1.2 million, offsetting a decline in 
      The labor force participation rate increased by 0.6 
percentage point in May to 60.8 percent, following a decline of 
2.5 percentage points in April. Total employment, as measured by 
the household survey, rose by 3.8 million to 137.2 million in 
May, following a large decline in April (-22.4 million). The 
employment-population ratio increased by 1.5 percentage points 
to 52.8 percent in May. This followed a decline of 8.7 
percentage points in April.
      The number of people who usually work full time rose by 2.2 
million over the month to 116.5 million, and the number who 
usually work part time increased by 1.6 million to 20.7 million. 
Both these measures had declined sharply in April. Part-time 
workers accounted for about two-fifths of the over-the-month 
employment growth.
      In May, the number of people at work part time for economic 
reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time workers) 
changed little at 10.6 million, after nearly doubling in April.  
The number of workers affected by this type of underemployment 
is up by 6.3 million since February of this year.
      The number of people not in the labor force who currently 
want a job declined by 954,000 to 9.0 million in May. This 
followed a large increase in April (+4.4 million). While down 
from April, the presence of a large number of individuals who 
indicate that they want a job but were not actively looking for 
one reflects the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the job 
market. Mandatory business closures, stay-at-home orders, and 
fear of the coronavirus illness likely kept many individuals 
from engaging in labor market activity.
      Among those who were not in the labor force in May but 
wanted a job, 2.4 million were considered marginally attached to 
the labor force, little changed over the month. (People who are 
marginally attached to the labor force had not looked for work 
in the 4 weeks prior to the survey but wanted a job, were 
available for work, and had looked for a job within the last 12 
months.) Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally 
attached who believed no jobs were available for them, numbered 
662,000 in May, also little changed over the month.
      There continued to be a large number of workers who were 
classified as employed but absent from work for the entire 
reference week. As in March and April, special instructions sent 
to household survey interviewers called for employed people 
absent from work due to coronavirus-related business closures to 
be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, not 
all such workers were so classified in May, despite additional 
training given to household survey interviewers. BLS and the 
Census Bureau continue to investigate this issue, and we're 
taking additional steps to address the problem.
      As is our usual practice, no ad hoc actions were taken to 
reassign survey responses; the data were accepted as recorded. 
If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from 
work due to "other reasons" (over and above the number absent 
for other reasons in a typical May) had been classified as 
unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate 
would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported 
(on a not seasonally adjusted basis). Additional information is 
available online at
      Summarizing the labor market developments in May, nonfarm 
payroll employment rose by 2.5 million, and the unemployment 
rate declined to 13.3 percent.

Last Modified Date: September 23, 2020