Unemployment rate falls as May jobs report shows surprising growth

1 month 1 week 10 hours ago Friday, June 05 2020 Jun 5, 2020 Friday, June 05, 2020 4:33:00 AM CDT June 05, 2020 in News
By: Avery Everett and Caroline Dade, KOMU 8 Reporters

COLUMBIA – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its May jobs report Friday morning, and national unemployment declined to 13.3%. 

According to the report, the U.S. added 2.5 million jobs in May. This was a sharp departure from what most economists thought the report would show. 

Martha Steffens is a professor in business and financial reporting at MU. Before Friday's report was released, she expected the data to show a national unemployment rate near 20%, which she said could have reflected the high water mark for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In my estimation, I think it will be a peak,” Steffens said. “The nation is beginning to reopen, and I think the nation’s going to stay open.”

It now appears like April may have been the peak for COVID-19-related job losses. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record unemployment rate of 14.7% after 20.5 million people lost their jobs in April. This wiped out a decade of job growt

The BLS collects data for the report in the middle of each month. Steffens and many other economists thought national unemployment numbers could have been higher in Friday's report because most states still had restrictions on businesses when the data was collected for the May report.

For Missouri, a state that has been reopening since May 4, Steffens said she predicts that unemployment rate for the state is lower than the national number.

Missouri “never really went dark,” Steffens said.

“If you really look at it, we didn’t shut down the way others did," Steffens said.

On Monday, Gov. Mike Parson said Missouri saw a decline of more than 300,000 jobs in March and April, which represents more than 10% of the state's labor force. 

“We could have never imagined this is where we would be today,” Parson said.

According to Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the number of initial unemployment claims each week in the state has declined over the course of the pandemic, particularly in May.

During the week of May 2, more than 52,000 Missourians filed unemployment claims. Four weeks later, around 20,000 Missourians filed initial unemployment claims during the week of May 30.

Steffens said the May jobs report may not depict the current employment situation in Missouri, but it should show a snapshot of how greatly the COVID-19 pandemic has affected workers in America.

This story has been updated to reflect the data released in the Bureau of Labor Statistic's May jobs report. 

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