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For additional information relating to this article, please contact:

Thomas StorringDirector – Economics and Statistics
Tel: 902-424-2410Email:

June 05, 2020

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an increase in US non-farm payroll employment, increasing by 2.5 million from April to May.

The US unemployment rate has fallen to 13.3 per cent. These improvements in the labor market reflected a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the COVID-19 and efforts to contain it.


Employment fell by 1.4 million in March and 20.7 million in April. Despite the monthly increase, nonfarm employment in May was 13 percent below its February level. The strongest employment increases occurred in leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade in May 2020. Government employment continued to decline sharply.


The US unemployment rate declined by 1.4 percentage points to 13.3 per cent in May. US unemployment decreased by 2.1 million to 21.0 million in May. Since February 2020, the US unemployment rate increased by 9.8 percentage points and the number of unemployed persons increased by 15.2 million due to COVID-19 and efforts to contain it.

Household survey results used to establish the unemployment rate considers a respondent to be unemployed on temporary layoff if they were not working during the entire survey reference week (May 10-16) but expected to be recalled.  US respondents who were employed but absent from work because of COVID-19 were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff.  May results show large number of persons were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to "other reasons" (over and above the number absent for other reasons in May) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis).

The US participation rate increased 0.6 percentage point to 60.8 per cent of the working age population.

The US employment to population ratio was up by 1.5 percentage point to 52.8 per cent in May, after a fall of 8.7 percentage points in April.

The reference week for the US household survey was May 10th through May 16th. 

Note: Canadian and US labour force statistics refer to different working-age cohorts.

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics news releaseCommissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation

Statistics Canada.  Table  14-10-0287-01   Labour force characteristics, monthly, seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle

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