by The Chicago Times Staff

June 4, 2021

WASHINGTON — Last month, employers added fewer jobs than predicted, as extended unemployment benefits encouraged workers to stay at home.  Employers added 559,000 jobs in May, according to the Labor Department, falling short of the 650,000 expected by analysts.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 5.8 percent, the lowest since the epidemic forced firms to close in March 2020.

Despite the increase in employment, the US economy has 7.6 million, or 5%, fewer jobs than it did in February 2020 before the epidemic.

Meanwhile, the resumption of in-person learning in more sections of the country has increased employment in both public and private education, with 144,000 job gains in the education sector.

Employers in the United States have had difficulty recruiting workers because supplemental unemployment payments of $300 a week has encouraged many to stay at home.  At least 25 states have declared plans to terminate the benefits before their September expiration date.

The labor force participation rate remained stable at 61.6 percent, having hovered between 61.4 percent and 61.7 percent since last June.  The reading was 1.7 percentage points lower than it had been in February of 2020.  The average hourly wage increased by 15 cents to $30.33, while the average workweek remained unchanged at 34.9 hours for the third month in a row.

According to economists, the labor market recovery may continue to fall short of its potential until the benefits are phased off in September.