Amherst unemployment rate improves

AMHERST — Hiring surged in the U.S. in June and average hourly wages increased as more Americans return to a pre-pandemic way of life. However, the country still has a long way to go before pandemic job losses are fully reversed.

The U.S. added 850,000 non-farm jobs in June, which was the largest monthly increase since August 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total payroll employment is up 15.6 million jobs since April 2020. However, the country is still down 6.8 million jobs (4.4 percent) from pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points to 5.9 percent between May and June.

The unemployment rate in the Amherst area has largely improved since the beginning of the pandemic, and there was some improvement from April to May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. May figures are the most recent for local unemployment.

The Hillsborough County unemployment rate was 1.4 percent in May, down from 2.7 percent in April. That reflected significant improvement from May 2020, when the unemployment rate stood at 14.0 percent.

The Hillsborough County May unemployment rate is the same rate as New Hampshire, according to the latest local figures from the BLS.

Nationally, the leisure and hospitality industry added 343,000 positions in June in a sign that more Americans are ready to return to restaurants, bars and vacation spots. Employment in the industry still has a long way to recover, with positions down 12.9 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

Average hourly earnings continue to climb as employers offer more money in an effort to fill positions. The average hourly earning was $30.40 in June, up 10 cents from May. Average hourly wages are up 43 cents since April.

President Joe Biden celebrated the report and said the country is rapidly recovering from the pandemic’s economic damage.

“Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers,” he said in a statement.

Long-term unemployment (jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 233,000 to 4 million; people who are long-term unemployed account for about 42 percent of all unemployed people in June.