8.5 Million Out of Work in May as Jobless Rate Soars

The unemployment rate jumped by half a percentage point in May, with 8.5 million people out of work last month. The jump from 5 to 5.5 percent is the largest monthly increase since February of 1986.

The Labor Department numbers are also further evidence that the country may be in a recession.

The U.S. economy lost nearly 50,000 jobs last month; May was the fifth straight month in a row in which the job market has shrunk.

The last time the U.S. job market shrank for five consecutive months was in 2001 and 2002, when the nation was in recession.

Stuart Hoffman, an analyst with PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, says the unemployment rate jumped because more people continued to lose jobs — particularly in manufacturing and construction.

And more people came into the job market looking for work, but weren't able to find any.

That was due in part to hiring freezes being put in place in much of the country, but it also stemmed from continued layoffs — "particularly housing and anything related to housing," Hoffman said.

While today's numbers were pretty bleak, there was some good news. Health care continued to add jobs. And while the unemployment rate did jump to 5.5 percent, that's relatively low by historical standards.

Still, Hoffman said the report shows that the country is in recession.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.