Unemployment Rate Hits Highest Level Since January of 2022 in May

Craig Bannister | June 7, 2024
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May’s unemployment rate was the highest monthly rate in over two years, hitting 4.0%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday.

May’s seasonally-adjusted 4.0% unemployment rate wasn’t just up from April’s 3.9% level, it was also the highest monthly rate in 29 months, matching the 4.0% level posted in January of 2022.

The number of people in the civilian labor force decreased by 250,000 from April to May, while the count of those not in the labor force jumped by 433,000. The labor force participation rate fell from 62.7% to 62.5%.

In May, the number of unemployed increased to 6.6 million, up 157,000 from April and a half-million higher than the 6.1 million recorded in May of 2023. Meanwhile, the number of employed shrank by 408,000 over the month, to 161.1 million.

After falling far short of expectations in April, job growth greatly exceeded analysts’ predictions of 185,000 for May, as BLS reports that 272,000 jobs were added.

But, Friday’s report also revised April’s job growth number down by 10,000, to 165,000. Thus, job growth averaged 218,500 over the past two month. That number falls short of the 232,000 average growth over the past 12 months.

Over the last year, BLS has consistently revised previous months’ reported job growth downward, so it likely to do the same for May in next month’s report.

Health care and government fueled May’s month-to-month job growth:

  • Health Care: +68K
  • Government: +43k
  • Leisure/Hospitality: +42K
  • Professional/Scientific/Technical Services: +32K
  • Social Assistance: +15K


Employment in retail trade increased by 13,000 jobs, higher than the 8,000 average monthly gain over the prior 12 months.

The BLS employment report for June is scheduled to be released on July 5.

The business and economic reporting of CNSNews is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.