SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- New data released today - the May unemployment rate has fallen from April - amid worries the new number would be higher than during the Great Depression.

The decline is attributed to a surge in jobs as the nation begins to reopen.

Western Mass News spoke with two local business owners who said they are bringing more employees on board as their businesses plan for reopening, which adds to the better unemployment news that came out today.

The May unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent in April, but the U.S. economy also gaining 2.5 million jobs last month which is the largest monthly recorded gain.

As more businesses begin to operate - or are preparing to open their doors again - some employees in western Mass. are being added back on the payroll.

"I’ve been shut down for about eight weeks now and today we begin service to all major cities in the northeast," he said. "Limited service in the beginning, but as passenger activity increases will be back on schedules and departures almost daily," said the chairman of Peter Pan Bus Lines, Peter Picknelly.

Picknelly told Western Mass News - over the phone - that 100 employees have been brought back to work for Friday's reopening.

"Maintenance driver some ticket folks customer service and some office stuff so we’re still about 20 percent back, but we’re looking forward to getting full steam ahead and full capacity soon," Picknelly explained.

He also said while services are limited right now, they are prepared to bring back more staff as the demand increases.

"If we see schedules that are filling up we just add more schedules and will bring on more drivers," he said. "Many of our schedules today even unlimited service there 3/4 full and everyone seems to be happy to be getting to their destinations and visiting friends and family so we’re looking forward to it," Picknelly said.

Over in Agawam, the owner of Coopers', Kate Gourde told Western Mass News - over the phone - that she is bringing back several employees for their anticipated reopening date next week. This is as part of the state's phase two reopening plan, but she isn't able to bring back everyone all at once.

"In addition to myself I would have 2 on per day and I would alternate them they all work part-time and will just take it from there generally," she said. "I don’t have all hands on deck and less were in the middle of the Christmas season," Gourde explained.

She told us for now, it's a waiting game to see how customers respond.

"We’re going to have to see what business dictates," she said. "I don’t know what to expect as we reopen. I’m hoping that will be as busy as we can be, but still be safe," Gourde said.

Governor Charlie Baker is expected to announce the official phase two start date at some point on Saturday, but he's currently aiming for a June 8.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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