The economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May, while the unemployment rate dropped to 13.3%, according to the Labor Department.
The slight improvement in an otherwise bleak economic picture was due to the reopening of businesses in several states. Unemployment levels leapt to 14.7% in April, as the coronavirus pandemic ground American life to a standstill. That number and the May results surpassed the worst figure of the Great Recession, when unemployment topped out at 10% in 2009. Many of the gains came in the leisure and hospitality sector, where reopened restaurants saw job levels increase by 1.2 million, following losses of 7.5 million in April and 743,000 in March.
The number of unemployed persons fell by 2.1 million to 21 million. In May, the number of unemployed persons who were jobless less than five weeks decreased by 10.4 million to 3.9 million. These individuals made up 18.5 percent of the unemployed, while the number of unemployed persons who have been without work for five to 14 weeks rose by 7.8 million to 14.8 million.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the “motion picture and sound recording” category, which includes film production workers and theater employees, had an unemployment rate of 31.5%, up from 31.3% in April. Film production has halted and the entertainment industry is currently coming up with a plan and guidelines for ways to ensure their sets remain free from COVID-19.
The unemployment rate was 3.5% in February, before the virus hit, and 4.4% in March.