President Trump speaking in the Rose Garden following the release of the jobs report on May 5, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Economists were projecting that May's jobs figures would show a loss of 8 million jobs and an unemployment rate approaching 20% — Great Depression territory.

The state of play: Instead, a record 2.5 million workers were added, and unemployment fell to 13.3% from April's post-World War II high of 14.7%.

  • Wall Street loved it: The Dow and S&P enjoyed the best week in two months; the NASDAQ 100 set a record. (CNBC)

This was the biggest-ever Jobs Day whiff by forecasters:

  • Before Friday, Bloomberg News reports, "the biggest single-month miss on the payrolls report was 318,000 in February 2003, according to Bloomberg survey data going back to 1996."

How it happened: Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, told Bloomberg that this economic downturn — sharp and swift due to the shutdown — is "a very, very different animal" than other downturns.

  • Forecasters "have to remain humble in the face of all the tremendous uncertainty," Daco said.

Reality check: Uncertainty about the data and the nation's real economy has led to fears that the stunning report was a head fake.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in Friday's fine print that a "misclassification error" by surveyors means the actual unemployment rate could have been "about 3 percentage points higher than reported," not seasonally adjusted. (Go deeper.)

Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York, told Reuters: "It took years for the economy to grow enough to find jobs for those unemployed in the last recession, and it will take years again this time to do the same."

Go deeper

Jul 2, 2020 - Podcasts

Lots of jobs, lots of questions

America added 4.8 million jobs in June, easily exceeding economist expectations, while the unemployment rate fell from 13.3% to 11.1%. But the jobs picture remains very murky, particularly as some states pause or roll back economy reopenings.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the jobs picture right now and where it's headed, with The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell.

Biden's doctrine: Erase Trump, re-embrace the world

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto, and Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Foreign policy will look drastically different if Joe Biden defeats President Trump in November, advisers tell Axios — starting with a Day One announcement that the U.S. is re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and new global coordination of the coronavirus response.

The big picture: If Trump's presidency started the "America First" era of withdrawal from global alliances, Biden's team says his presidency would be the opposite: a re-engagement with the world and an effort to rebuild those alliances — fast.

Robert Mueller speaks out on Roger Stone commutation

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday July 24, 2019. Photo: The Washington Post / Contributor

Former special counsel Robert Mueller responded to claims from President Trump and his allies that Roger Stone was a "victim" in the Justice Department's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, writing in a Washington Post op-ed published Saturday: "He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

Why it matters: The rare public comments by Mueller come on the heels of President Trump's move to commute the sentence of his longtime associate, who was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for crimes stemming from the Russia investigation. The controversial decision brought an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars.