US hiring surged to a record high in May and layoffs declined as businesses reopened, but the signs of improvement in the labor market have been overshadowed by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has forced some enterprises to shut down again.
The Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, hiring accelerated by 2.4 million jobs to 6.5 million, the highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000. The hiring rate jumped to an all-time high of 4.9% from 3.1% in April.
The report followed on the heels of news last Friday that the economy created a record 4.8 million jobs in June. Nonfarm payrolls have rebounded after a historic plunge of 20.787 million in April as the labor market reeled from the closure of businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But the upswing in hiring has been overtaken by record spikes in new COVID-19 infections in large parts of the country, including Arizona and the highly populated states of California, Florida and Texas, which have forced several jurisdictions to scale back or pause reopenings, and send some workers back home.
Hiring in May was driven by the accommodation and food services industry. There were also increases in the healthcare and social assistance and construction businesses.
Layoffs and discharges tumbled 5.9 million to 1.8 million in May. The accommodation and food services industry accounted for the bulk of the decline in layoffs. There were also decreases in the retail sector.
The layoffs and discharge rate dropped to 1.4% from 5.9% in April. The layoffs rate hit a record high of 7.6% in March.
The government also reported that job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 401,000 to 5.4 million on the last business day of May. The job openings rate rose to 3.9% from 3.7% in April.