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Job gain of 4.8 million in June smashes expectations; unemployment rate falls to 11.1%

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Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 4.8 million in June and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1% as the U.S. continued its reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a 2.9 million increase and a jobless rate of 12.4%. The report was released a day earlier than usual due to the July Fourth U.S. holiday.

The jobs growth marked a big leap from the 2.7 million in May, which was revised up by 190,000. The June total is easily the largest single-month gain in U.S. history.

The numbers capture the move by all 50 states to get activity moving again after the virus seized up much of the U.S., particularly service-related industries.

However, because the government survey comes from the middle of the month, it does not account for the suspension or rollbacks in regions hit by a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

Leisure and hospitality again accounted for the biggest jump, as the sector saw a 2.1 million gain, accounting for about 40% of the total growth.

Another big contributor to the decline of the jobless rate was a plunge in those on temporary layoff. That total fell by 4.8 million in June to 10.6 million after a decrease of 2.7 million in May. The short-term jobless level fell by 1 million to 2.8 million.

The labor force participation level saw a sharp bump, rising to 61.5%, which brings it to 1.9 percentage points below its February level, a month before the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the U.S. economy.

Jobs were equally balanced at 2.4 million apiece for full- and part-time workers.

Retail also saw a sizeable boost, with a gain of 740,000. Education and health services  rose 568,000 and manufacturing was up 356,000. Personal and laundry services saw another major gain, at 264,000, part of an increase in other services that totaled 357,000.

The headline unemployment rate was understated sightly due to counting errors at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers who still have jobs but have not been working are being counted as employed and even though they are supposed to be considered unemployed under BLS rules.

However, the BLS said that discrepancy “declined considerably” in June, making the actual unemployment rate only about 1 percentage point higher than the reported level.

An alternative measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed fell to 18% from 21.2%.

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