The U.S. unemployment rate shocked economists on Wall Street, dropping to 13.3% for the month of May.
Dow Jones experts had predicted the rate would soar to 19.5% with another 8 million jobs lost, but the economists weren’t even close. The economy actually created more than 2.5 million jobs in May, the Labor Department reported.
The May gain was by far the biggest one-month jobs gain in U.S. history since at least 1939.
“It is a stunner by any stretch of the imagination!” President Trump wrote on Twitter. It’s a stupendous number. It’s joyous, let’s call it like it is. The Market was right. It’s stunning!”
Jobs returned to many sectors, from retail sales to restaurants and bars to clothing stores to dentistry and medical practices. But jobs were lost in government and education, due to ongoing school closures.
Futures on the Dow soared more than 650 points on the good news.
The unemployment rate increased by more than 10% in April, hitting 14.7%. The March jobs report barely caught the initial surge in unemployment, measured then at just 4.4%.
But there was bad news on Thursday, with the Labor Department saying another 1.8 million Americans made first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, pushing the number of people who have lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic above 42 million.
Weekly jobless claims totaled 1.877 million; Dow Jones analysts had estimated a job loss of 1.775 million. Last week’s number was an improvement from the previous week’s jobless claims of 2.126 million.
Continuing claims, which show how many people remain unemployed and drawing benefits, totaled 21.5 million, a gain of 649,000 over the past week, also worse than Dow Jones analysts had expected.
As states have finally begun to reopen, the numbers are expected to continue to recede. The 1.8 million claims last week is the lowest total since the coronavirus crisis began. In fact, the numbers have dropped for eight weeks in a row since the week ending March 25, when first-time claims hit nearly 7 million.
But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has offered a bleaker picture. The non-partisan government agency said in its May report that the lockdowns will hamper the U.S. economy through next year, inflicting long-term damage to business investment and the labor market.
The office forecast that the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) will plunge 38% in the second quarter of the year, which would be the worst drop on record. And by the end of 2020, the CBO said 26 million more Americans will be unemployed at the end of the year, more than triple the number of job losses that occurred during the 2008 financial crisis.
“The economy is expected to begin recovering during the second half of 2020 as concerns about the pandemic diminish and as state and local governments ease restrictions,” the CBO’s May report said in its report. “The labor market is projected to materially improve after the third quarter—hiring will rebound and furloughs will drop significantly as the degree of social distancing diminishes. To account for the chances of the pandemic persisting or reemerging, CBO projects that social distancing will continue, but to a declining degree. The persistence of social distancing will keep economic activity and labor market conditions suppressed for some time.”
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