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New York (CNN) -- Economists have closely watched monthly U.S. employment reports for signs of cracks in the labor market that could offer clues as to when a recession might begin. But their predictions have been tested month after month with higher-than-expected increases.
Last month's report was no exception.
Entrepreneurs created a whopping 339,000 new jobs in May, surpassing the 190,000 jobs forecast by economists.
Employers have been hiring more workers each month since January 2021. This came as more parts of the economy gradually reopened after months of shutdowns.
In 2021, entrepreneurs created an average of 606,000 jobs per month. These gains stabilized somewhat in 2022, with an average of 399,000 jobs per month. That figure has continued to decline this year, but it's still impressively high with 314,000 average monthly earnings.
In total, 3.7 million more people were working last month than in February 2020, before the pandemic caused major disruptions to the U.S. economy.
While many industries such as transportation and warehousing have brought back all their workers – and more – some industries are still struggling to get back all the workers they lost due to the pandemic.
Sectors with a shortage of workers
There are four major sectors of the economy that employ fewer workers now compared to before the pandemic.
The leisure and hospitality sector is the one with the greatest shortage of workers, with a decrease of 349,000 people; that is, 2% of the total workforce prior to the pandemic.
At the height of the pandemic, workers in the leisure and hospitality sector suffered the most layoffs of all sectors, as premises closed during lockouts. But even when restaurants, bars and entertainment venues were allowed to reopen and people started travelling again little by little, workers did not take the opportunity to get their old jobs back.
Instead, people found jobs in different sectors that paid more and reduced their exposure to people, said Jim McCoy, senior vice president of talent solutions at ManpowerGroup, a leading staffing company.
"We saw a big conversion of people who worked in restaurants to go to work from home," McCoy said. Many of these workers found remote employment in call centers and have stayed on the job ever since, he added.
Public jobs suffer the second largest shortage of workers.
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This sector covers a wide range of jobs, including workers in health and postal services. But within this sector, most of the shortage of workers comes from public school teachers.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 118,000 fewer teachers nationwide last month compared to February 2020.
Like workers in the leisure and hospitality sector, many teachers quit their jobs for fear it would expose them to an increased risk of contracting covid.
"We're not seeing people re-enter the workforce fast enough as in other sectors to get some of those jobs back," McCoy told CNN. Despite the shortage, jobs in public education took much longer to raise wages than in other sectors, likely due to state and local budget constraints.
But that has started to change recently.
"Over the last year and a half, we've seen school districts and colleges make some progress in terms of wage improvements to keep their employees' cost of living level," McCoy said.
U.S. Unemployment U.S. Employmentpandemic impactpost-pandemic worldWorkfrom home