The pace of job growth picked up in May as the economy added 559,000 jobs and pushed the unemployment rate under 6% for the first time since last March, according to the Labor Department.
The U.S. still has 7.6 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic hobbled the U.S. economy last spring, but Friday morning’s report offered encouraging news for the leisure and hospitality industry.
The industry remains the hardest hit, but 292,000 of May’s new jobs — more than half of the month’s gains — stemmed from areas such as restaurants and hotels, spectator sports, and amusements and gambling — where total jobs grew by more than 4%.
One-third of the 559,000 jobs gained in May happened at restaurants and bars (186,000 jobs), according to the Labor Department. That’s an encouraging sign for workers in the leisure and hospitality industry, which still represents about one-third of the job losses since March 2020.
At the same time that the economy remains millions of jobs short of its employment levels in February 2020, companies posted a record number of job openings (8.1 million) in March, according to the latest data available from the Labor Department.
Some have suggested the additional $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit may be discouraging workers from returning to lower-wage jobs — many in the restaurant industry. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed to the $300 in additional unemployment aid as a reason behind April’s weaker-than-expected hiring.
But the most recent data from Indeed, the nation’s largest jobs site, also suggest that hospitality and leisure opportunities have lagged others in the economy.
The unemployment rate for each racial group offered another encouraging sign in the Labor Department’s report on Friday.
Every group’s unemployment rate declined from April. Black and Hispanic workers had the biggest declines — more than half a percentage point, but both remain well below the national average of 5.8%.
The unemployment rate for Black men fell back into single digits in May (9.8%) after rising to over 10% in April. Each group’s remains at least 2 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels.
The Labor Department will update the state unemployment numbers later this month, but the trends were little changed between March and April: lower rates in the Midwest and higher rates on the East and West coasts.