The unemployment rate jumped to 9.4% in May, the highest in more than 25 years. But the furious pace of layoffs eased, with employers cutting 345,000 jobs, the fewest since September. If laid off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.4%, the highest on record dating to 1994.
The Labor Department also says a total of 14.5 million people were unemployed in May. Job cuts were smaller than the 520,000 economists expected, while the unemployment rate was higher than the 9.2% forecast. Even with layoffs slowing, companies will be reluctant to hire until they feel certain that economic conditions are improving and that any recovery will last.