Washington/ Ottawa            -         The US economy regained 2.5 million jobs in May as coronavirus pandemic shutdowns began to ease, sending the unemployment rate falling to 13.3 percent, the Labor Department reported.

The result defied even the most optimistic expectations among economists, who had been expecting job losses of more than eight million and a jobless rate of 20 percent or higher.

President Donald Trump immediately cheered the data, tweeting, “Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”

The report attributed the improvements to “a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.”

However, as it has for the past two months, the Labor Department said the jobless rate was likely three points higher due to errors in how workers described their job status.

Still, with states allowing businesses to reopen, employment last month rose sharply in leisure and hospitality, construction, retail trade and education and health services, according to the data.

The number of workers on temporary layoff declined by 2.7 million to 15.3 million in a sign people have been able to return to their jobs.

The gains came despite downward revisions to March and April that subtracted another 690,000 jobs.

And government employment continued to decline sharply, dropping by 585,000 positions.

Meanwhile, Canadian employment rose by 290,000 or 1.8 percent in May, the government statistical agency said Friday, as restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus were eased and businesses started reopening.

But the jobless rate rose 0.7 percent to a record 13.7 percent as more Canadians looked for work, said Statistics Canada.

The figure is more than double the unemployment rate prior to the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

The three million jobs lost from February to April, however, were mostly temporary layoffs, and those newly unemployed Canadians expected to return to their jobs within six months, according to the government agency.

In May, as restrictions gradually began to ease in various parts of the country, employment rebounded more strongly in the goods-producing sector (+165,000) than in the services-producing sector (+125,000).

About 4.9 million Canadians continued working from home.

Statistics Canada warned that the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions and reopening of the economy presented both opportunities and challenges.

“For employers, this includes adapting workplaces while adjusting to disruptions in global supply chains and uncertainties in consumer demand,” it said.

“For workers, the challenges vary, from returning to a previous employer, to looking for a new job, adapting to new ways of working, or making child care arrangements.”

The data showed Quebec province -- the hardest-hit in Canada by the pandemic -- accounted for 80 percent of the new jobs.

Ontario, the second-hardest-hit and the nation’s economic hub, meanwhile, continued to shed jobs.