As thousands of workers returned to work during partial Coronavirus factory reopenings, manufacturing saw 225,000 job gains over the course of the month. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, makers of durable goods made up for 119,000 jobs, while non-durable goods sectors added another 106,000.
A large player in May employment rates was the automotive sector, with automaker giants like Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler resuming operation in Mexico and the United States with factories at almost 80% of normal capacity. Overall, the motor industry gained 27,700 jobs last month.
Updated measures are being taken to avoid the spread of the virus within plants. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers factory workers to be in the “medium exposure risk” group for COVID-19. In this group, employers should require workers to wear PPE in the workplace and install glass barriers between employees to further prevent spreading germs.
Manufacturing totaled 11.7 million jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was better than 11.482 million in April but far below the 12.829 million in May 2019. Despite gloomy forecasts, unemployment rates actually declined in May from 14.7 percent to 13.3 percent. Additionally, non-farm employment increased by 2.5 million in May despite the fact that economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast a loss of 8 million.
On top of that, U.S. retail sales saw a drastic surge of 17.7% in May, doubling economists’ forecasts. The increase likely reflects the loosening of stay-at-home orders in most states and the reopening of retail stores and malls.
These recent statistics on U.S. employment and production indicate that the national economy may be looking better than experts originally thought. Although the country has a long road ahead, May saw the beginning of a revival from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.