WASHINGTON — The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in May and layoffs abated, the Labor Department said on Friday in a report that showed the latest signs the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was bottoming.
The Labor Department’s closely watched monthly employment report showed the jobless rate dropped to 13.3% last month from 14.7% in April. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 2.509 million jobs after a record plunge of 20.687 million in April.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the jobless rate jumping to 19.8% in May from 14.7% in April. Nonfarm payrolls for May had been expected to fall by 8 million jobs.
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The jobs market improved considerably in the second half of May as businesses reopened after shuttering in mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19. Consumer confidence, manufacturing and services industries are also stabilizing, though at low levels, signs the worst was over.