Politics & Money

Unemployment rate surprises, declining to 13.3% in May

Homebuilders and remodelers added 226,000 jobs, Labor Department data shows

The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined to 13.3% in May, down from a record 14.7% in April, as the economy added 2.5 million jobs, the Labor Department said on Friday.

It was the second-highest unemployment rate in data that goes back to 1948. Economists expected the number to rise to 19.8%, according to a survey by Trading Economics.

President Donald Trump described the numbers as “stupendous” and “joyous” on Twitter, adding “Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”

The Hispanic unemployment rate was 17.6%, the rate for black Americans was 16.8%, and the rate for white workers was 12.4%, according to the Labor Department.

“We’re in a massive and deep hole, and it’ll take a while to climb out, but at least the hole isn’t getting any deeper,” said Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist.

The numbers for the construction industry show builders are hiring again, said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. Homebuilders and remodelers added 226,000 jobs in May, Dietz said. The level is 148,400 lower than a year ago, he said.

“This is a strikingly strong turnaround, although the sector employment count remains lower,” Dietz said.

The unemployment rate is dropping as many states begin phased opening of their economies, lifting stay-at-home orders that closed businesses in March.

Even with extreme measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic’s death toll passed 107,000 on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s a fraction of what public health experts projected would happen if no measures had been taken.

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