A sign for workers hangs in the window of a shop along Main Street in Deadwood, S.D. U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain, May 26, 2021.
A sign for workers hangs in the window of a shop along Main Street in Deadwood, S.D. U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain, May 26, 2021.

The U.S. economy gained 559,000 jobs in May, the Labor Department reported Friday, as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that forced employers to layoff millions of workers.

Last month’s gains topped April’s revised total of 278,000 new jobs, improving the jobless rate from 6.1% to 5.8%.

“We have now created over two million jobs in total since I took office, more jobs than have ever been created in the first four months of any presidency in modern history,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at a media briefing in his home state of Delaware after the report was released.

The economy’s rapid recovery from the pandemic-fueled recession has forced employers to scramble to hire workers. The gains were driven largely by the 186,000 new jobs at restaurants, other food businesses and bars.

To attract workers, many large businesses such as Amazon, Costco and Walmart have begun raising pay.

The number of people who were employed or searching for jobs fell slightly last month after three months of gains.

In April there were about eight million fewer jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, and nearly 10 million people were unemployed.

Biden said last month’s job gains also were spurred by the country’s vaccination campaign. He said since the first week in May, when 35% of working age adults were fully vaccinated, “21 million more adults have gotten vaccinated, making it easier for them to return to work safely.”

The economy grew in the first quarter at a strong 6.4% annual rate, and Biden said when he took office in January, independent experts projected the economy would grow between 3% to 4 % this year. But he said the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development this week increased the projection to 6.9 percent.

“This is progress, historic progress, progress that’s pulling our economy out of the worst crisis it’s been [in] 100 years,” Biden said.

The president warned that continued economic progress is not guaranteed, and that is why he proposed spending billions on a national infrastructure rebuilding plan and on an array of spending programs and tax cuts for families. 

Biden added that talks with lawmakers on his infrastructure proposal would resume later Friday. He has offered concessions to Senate Republicans in an effort to reach an agreement.