Hiring Soared in May As Mass Layoffs Eased

WASHINGTON (AP) -
A customer walks out of a U.S. Post Office branch and under a banner advertising a job opening, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The job market took a big step toward healing in May as a record level of hiring followed record layoffs in March and April.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the number of available jobs rose sharply as well, but remained far below pre-pandemic levels.

The figures, from the government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey, or JOLTS, illustrate the whiplash the economy has experienced since the pandemic intensified in mid-March. Layoffs soared in March to a stunning 11.5 million, roughly four times the peak during the 2008-2009 recession. They remained extraordinarily high in April, at 7.7 million, but in May they fell back to pre-pandemic levels of 1.8 million.

Hiring, meanwhile, plunged in April to 4 million, the lowest level since 2011, but jumped to 6.5 million in May, which is the most hires on records dating back to 2000.

The JOLTS report provides gross totals of hiring and layoffs, while the monthly jobs report, which also includes the unemployment rate, is a net figure of total jobs gained or lost.

On Thursday, the jobs report showed that employers added a net total of 4.8 million jobs in June, after a gain of 2.7 million in May. The unemployment rate is 11.1%, down from its April and May levels.

Employers advertised 5.4 million jobs in May, about 10% higher than in April, but still below pre-pandemic levels of about 7 million.