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Unemployment Rate Sees First Drop Since Coronavirus Pandemic Began, 21 Million Americans Still Without Work

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Unemployment dropped Friday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

As restrictions surrounding COVID-19 start to ease, businesses across the country, including here at home, are beginning to bounce back and employees like Steven Rice are back to work.

Rice was rehired two weeks ago at Manhattanville Coffee in Harlem.

"They don't have as much shifts but still grateful to have what we have," he told CBS2's Kiran Dhillon.

He's not the only one back on the job.

RELATED STORY: Unemployment Unexpectedly Drops, But Full Recovery Not Imminent

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday the unemployment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3% with 2.5 million jobs added in May.

This comes after April marked the biggest hit to the labor market since records started to be kept in 1948.

"This is a stunning reversal. We were expecting that the unemployment rate would rise to about 20%," CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger said.

President Donald Trump says the numbers prove the economy is recovering.

"We had the greatest economy in the history of our country. We had the greatest economy in the history of the world and that strength let us get through this horrible pandemic," Trump said.

But despite the increase in jobs, 21 million people remain unemployed, the highest jobless rate seen in decades.


While unemployment was down in May for whites and Hispanics, it remained little changed for blacks and Asians.

"There's a huge disparity," financial expert Jordan Goodman said. "A lot of people who had to go into work whether it's a meatpacking plant or a factory, tend to be minorities and their jobs are going to come back more slowly. In some cases, they may not come back at all."

Goodman also warns the increase in jobs could lead Congress to pour less money into the economy.

He also predicts more layoffs, including for white collar and government workers, are possible.

Still, he says Friday's numbers are positive.

"It's not gonna go back to the way it was before the coronavirus, but certainly the trajectory is better," Goodman said.

Watch Dick Brennan's report --

Schlesinger told CBS2's Dick Brennan, however, the unemployment rate may be understated and could be revised upward.

"So the Labor Department said, we think that actually the actual unemployment rate could be three full percentage points higher, which would bring us above 16%, so we really gotta watch to see how these data sets shake out over the next couple of months," she said.

The president seemed to link the economic news to George Floyd and racial equality.

"Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country. This is a great day for him, it's a great day for everybody," Trump said.

The White House insists the president was not tying Floyd to the unemployment numbers, but former vice president Joe Biden says the comment was despicable.

"The fact that he did so on a day when black unemployment rose, Hispanic unemployment rose, black youth unemployment skyrocketed, tells you everything you need to know about this man," Biden said.


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