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COVID-19 Top Stories: U.S. Unemployment Rate Improves to 13.3 Percent in May

Learn what’s happening now in the United States and around the world.

Updated on June 5, 2020 at 10:30am ET

What you need to know about the novel coronavirus right now:

May jobs report: Unemployment rate falls to 13.3 percent
The United States unemployment rate dropped from 14.7 to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department revealed in its monthly jobs report on Friday. More than 2.5 million jobs were added to U.S. payroll, surprising both financial experts and news outlets who predicted a record increase in the rate to about 20 percent.

Though 21 million Americans remain without work, the decline is a promising sign for economic recovery following spring’s COVID-19 lockdowns. Employment grew dramatically in several areas in May, including leisure and hospitality, construction, education, health services and retail, according to the report. The number of government jobs continued to fall.

Among worker groups, Hispanic workers experienced the biggest improvements month over month, followed by adult women, white people, and adult men. There was little change in the employment rate for teenagers, as well as black and Asian people.

Despite the positive development, experts say the number doesn’t reflect the true number of people currently without jobs. If those who are employed but absent for “other reasons” were counted—many were likely furloughed, the Labor Department noted—the official unemployment rate would have reached about 17 percent. Still, it’s an improvement from April, when it would have been 20 percent.

The Labor Department also reported that 10.6 million full-time workers were working part-time in May—about the same number as April—either because their hours were cut back or they haven’t been able to find full-time work.

Journals react two major COVID-19 studies after data doubts arise
A pair of prominent medical journals retracted separate COVID-19 studies on Thursday, following widespread criticism of the papers’ underlying data.

The Lancet retracted a large study on the high-profile anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. Researchers had found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who took either drug were significantly more likely to die than those who did not take them.

“We can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources,” study co-authors wrote in a statement. “Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted.”

Later in the day, the New England Journal of Medicine retracted a study involving the use of blood pressure medications for COVID-19 patients with underlying cardiovascular disease.

Both studies received data from the same company, Surgisphere Corporation, which did not cooperate with peer reviewers when its information was scrutinized.

While several other studies have suggested that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19—and is likely dangerous for many patients—the Lancet retraction adds fuel to the ongoing debate surrounding the drug. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers not to take hydroxychloroquine outside of a medical setting, due to the risk heart complications.

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