Friday, June 4, 2021: Most Unemployment Numbers Drop – But, We are Not Out of The Woods Yet
The re-opening of America continues in full force with 559,000 jobs added to employer payrolls in May, the vast majority coming from among the “long term unemployed” (i.e. unemployed for more than a year, mainly victims of the COVID-19 pandemic). BLS, in its monthly Employment Situation report for May 2021 put it like this:
“…the number of unemployed persons fell by 496,000 to 9.3 million. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic [unemployment levels of] (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020).”
Context: 150,000 jobs added to employer payrolls in any given month is considered strong evidence of a healthy and growing U.S. economy. May’s almost 560,000 number is extraordinary and would be seen only in a re-opening of the economy following a major economic downturn like the COVID-19 pandemic produced. But, the economy is not yet fully open since there are still 3.6 million persons on unemployment who were working in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut much of America in mid-March 2020 at a time we then had the lowest unemployment in the last 50 years. Even if the re-opening could sustain 500,000 new payroll additions each month (like May) in the U.S., please note that it would take 7 months (until the end of 2021) to chew down that 3.6 million unemployment backlog and get us back to where we were pre-pandemic. So, while there is great progress being made each month with more vaccinations and more businesses re-opening, there are still many employees and businesses feeling crushing economic pain.
Individuals with Disabilities had a slight increase in unemployment in May, while all other groups experienced a slight decrease. This information is yet another reminder to employers to start or expand recruitment efforts to this highly skilled, yet highly underused, group of talent.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, also took off the rose-colored glasses to note,
“…workers also told me about the challenges they and their families face – finding affordable childcare, caring for elderly parents and grandparents, and overcoming the hurdles raised by decades of income inequality and race- and gender-based inequity. These challenges are also reflected in our jobs data, and they are why the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are so important. We need to invest in our workforce and our communities to achieve an inclusive recovery and a competitive economy.”
See the Biden Administration’s Fact Sheet “Biden-Harris Administration Efforts to Support Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities” for disability-focused efforts in the first 100 days.