U.S. labor update: Jobless rate down, payrolls up

The monthly unemployment rate in the United States has dropped to its lowest level in more than a year as payrolls continue to grow.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate retreated three-tenths of a point to 5.8 percent in May, the lowest level since March 2020. Nonfarm payrolls increased 559,000.

Estimated payroll gains for April and March were revised upward 27,000 to a total of more than 1 million.

Still, nonfarm employment is down 7.6 million, or 5 percent, from its pre-pandemic peak in February 2020.

For May, 9.3 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 3.8 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Another 5.3 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were reduced or they were unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate edged down a tenth of a point to 61.6 percent, 1.7 points lower than February 2020.

Payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors in May.

Employment increased 292,000 in leisure and hospitality as pandemic restrictions eased in restaurants and bars. Still,  employment in the sector remains 15 percent below February 2020.

Employment increased 144,000 in public and private education, 46,000 in health care and social assistance, 35,000 in business and professional services and 23,000 in manufacturing.

Employment decreased 20,000 in construction and 6,000 in retail trades.

The average work week remained unchanged at 34.9 hours for a third straight month. The manufacturing workweek lengthened a tenth of an hour to 40.5 hours. Average hourly earnings rose 15 cents to $30.33.