More Americans returned to work last month, but not as many as economists expected. The Labor Department reports employers filled 559,000 jobs last month.
While it’s a solid number, the consensus estimate among economists was an increase of more than 600,000 jobs following April’s disappointing figure of 260,000 new jobs. The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic.
The biggest job gains last month occurred in leisure and hospitality as bars and restaurants reopened to full capacity and Americans began to travel again.
Employment in leisure and hospitality rose by 292,000 last month. Nearly two-thirds of the increase was in food services and drinking places, which added 186,000 jobs.
Employment also rose in amusements, gambling, and recreation establishments. Hotels added 35,000 jobs. Despite the gains, the number of jobs in the sector is down by 2.5 million from its level in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.
Other sectors slower to rehire
As schools and universities reopened last month, jobs increased in both public and private education. Employment rose by 53,000 in local government education, by 50,000 in state
government education, and by 41,000 in private education. Again, those numbers pale in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
Health care and social assistance added 46,000 jobs in May. Employment in health care
continued to trend up, adding 23,000 positions. Social assistance added 23,000 jobs over the month, largely in child daycare services.
Jobs in retail changed little from April to May. Clothing and clothing accessories stores added 11,000 jobs last month but food and beverage stores shed 26,000 jobs. Overall the retail sector lost 6,000 jobs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned that the U.S. is facing a severe shortage of people willing to take jobs in the post-pandemic economy. The chamber is lobbying for federal and state policy changes that will help train more Americans for in-demand jobs, remove barriers to work, and double the number of visas available for legal immigrants.