Economists were shocked on Friday as the Bureau of Labor Statistics said US employers added 2.5 million payrolls in May, defying expectations of 7.5 million jobs lost. The surprise increase came on the heels of the record 20.5 million jobs lost in April.
The unemployment rate declined to 13.3%, bucking forecasts of a near-record 19% rate. April’s 14.7% reading was the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The May report suggested that the US economy might be past the peak of the coronavirus pandemic’s devastation. By the end of the month, all 50 states had relaxed at least some restrictions, even as the US’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 100,000 people.