May’s unemployment numbers were shocking. Here’s how everyone got it so wrong

The Labor Department reported May unemployment fell to 13.3 percent, a  from the 14.7 percent  in April.
The Labor Department reported May unemployment fell to 13.3 percent, a from the 14.7 percent in April. (CNN)

(CNN) – When the May jobs report dropped Friday morning, the numbers were shocking: US unemployment actually fell, defying virtually all economists' predictions.

How did they get it so wrong?

The forecast

Economists were expecting the jobs report to show May was yet another horrendous month for workers. Those surveyed by Refinitiv had predicted another 8 million job losses and an unemployment rate nearing 20%. Journalists, reporting on economists' forecasts, had prepared charts ready to show the unemployment rate at its highest level since the Great Depression.

The reality

Instead, unemployment suddenly fell in May as employers added 2.5 million jobs. It was the best month for job growth since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the data in 1939. And employment increased for white, black and Latino workers. Both women and men reported job gains and re-entered the labor force.

Although the job market remains far weaker than it was before the pandemic, the data seem to show it has at least stopped getting worse. And that's good news, indeed.

Stocks soared on the news and President Trump fired off a series of tweets in celebration, calling the numbers "stupendous," "AMAZING" and "INCREDIBLE."