May 2021 Employment Summary Report

  • On June 10, 2021

As May came to a close, many college graduates are preparing to start their internships or beginning full-time employment, while others are still searching for their best opportunity. Staff Solve strives to assist employers and job seekers with information and process hiring, but the overall economic picture of employment trends in the United States and possible factors involved.

Overall employment rose by 559,000 in May, decreasing the unemployment rate by 0.3% to a total of 5.8%. The numbers from the data are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020). The number of persons on temporary layoff declined by 291,000 to 1.8 million. The number of permanent job losers decreased by 295,000 to 3.2 million in May but is 1.9 million higher than in February 2020.

The number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks declined by 391,000 to two million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) declined by 431,000 to 3.8 million in May but is 2.6 million higher than in February 2020. These long-term unemployed accounted for 40.9 percent of the total unemployed in May. The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons was essentially unchanged at 5.3 million in May but is 873,000 higher than in February 2020. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part-time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Notable job gains are spotted in leisure and hospitality, in public and private education, and in health care and social assistance. 16.6 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 18.3 percent in the prior month. Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 292,000, as pandemic-related restrictions continued to ease in some parts of the country. Nearly two-thirds of the increase was in food services and drinking places (+186,000). Employment also rose in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+58,000) and in accommodation (+35,000). Employment increased in public and private education, reflecting the continued resumption of in-person learning and other school-related activities in some parts of the country. Employment rose by 53,000 in local government education, by 50,000 in state government education, and by 41,000 in private education. Health care and social assistance added 46,000 jobs in May. Employment in health care continued to trend up (+23,000), reflecting a gain in ambulatory health care services (+22,000). Social assistance added 23,000 jobs over the month, largely in child daycare services (+18,000). 

Jobs in information rose by 29,000 over the month but is down by 193,000 since February 2020. In May, job gains occurred in the motion picture and sound recording industries (+14,000). Manufacturing employment rose by 23,000 and motor vehicles and parts (+25,000). Transportation and warehousing added 23,000 jobs, support activities for transportation (+10,000), and air transportation (+9,000). Wholesale trade increased by 20,000, mostly in the durable goods component (+14,000). Construction employment edged down in May (-20,000), reflecting a job loss in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-17,000). Employment in professional and business services changed little in May (+35,000). Within the industry, employment continued to trend up in accounting and bookkeeping services (+14,000). Temporary help services changed little over the month (+4,000). Retail trade changed little (-6,000) while clothing and clothing accessories stores added 11,000 jobs. Food and beverage stores decreased by 26,000, following a decline of 47,000 in April. In May, employment changed little in other major industries, including mining, financial activities, and other services. 

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 15 cents to $30.33 in May, following an increase of 21 cents in April. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 14 cents to $25.60 in May, following an increase of 19 cents in April. The data for the last 2 months suggests that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages. However, because average hourly earnings vary widely across industries, the large employment fluctuations since February 2020 complicates the analysis of the report for recent trends in average hourly earnings. 

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