Unemployment Rate Rose in May as Number of Employed Fell for First Time in 6 Months

Craig Bannister | June 2, 2023
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The unemployment rate rose to 3.7% in May, as the number of employed fell and the number of job-seekers increased from April, according to seasonally-adjusted data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs increased by 318,000 to 3.0 million in May, offsetting a decrease the previous month.

In May, the number of persons jobless less than five weeks rose by 217,000 to 2.1 million, partially offsetting a decrease in the prior month. The number of persons jobless 15 to 26 weeks increased by 179,000 to 858,000 in May. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.2 million and accounted for 19.8% of the total unemployed.

After setting five straight monthly records, the number of employed Americans fell by more than three hundred thousand in May:

  • 160,721,000 Americans were employed in May, a decrease of 310,000.
  • The number of unemployed Americans – no job, but looking – increased by 440,000 to 6.1 million,
  • May’s 3.7% unemployment rose three-tenths of a point from 3.4% in April.
  • Americans counted as not in the workforce – no job and not looking for one – rose by 45,000 in May to 99,800,000.
  • Number of people not in the labor force who want a job increased from 5.3 million to 5.5 million.
  • Non-farm economy added 339,000 jobs last month, mirroring the average of the last 12 months.


By demographic group, Hispanics were the only cohort to see their unemployment rate decline from April to May (seasonally adjusted):

  • Hispanics 4.0%, DOWN from 4.4% in April.
  • Adult men 3.5%, UP from 3.3%.
  • Adult women 3.3%, UP from 3.1%.
  • Whites 3.3%, UP from 3.1%.
  • Asians 2.9%, UP from 2.8%.
  • Blacks 5.6%, UP from 4.7%.
  • Teenagers 10.3%, UP from 9.2%.


Participation in labor force was little changed again in May:

  • The labor force participation rate held at 62.6% for the fourth straight month, the highest it's been in three years.
  • The non-institutional population in the United States was 266,618,000, up 175,000.
  • 166,818,000 were participating in the labor force, up 130,000.


By Industry:

In May, job gains continued in the professional and business services, government, health care, construction, transportation and warehousing, and social assistance fields:

  • Professional and business services: +64,000 jobs.
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: +43,000 jobs.
  • Leisure and hospitality: +48,000 (food services and drinking places +33,000).
  • Government employment: +56,000.
  • Health care, +52,000 jobs.


Employment was little changed over the month in other major industries, including mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; wholesale trade; retail trade; information; financial activities; and other services.


  • Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11 cents, or 0.3%, to $33.44.
  • Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.3%.
  • Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 13 cents, or 0.5%, to $28.75.


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