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Hiring slowed in September as U.S. economy added only 661,000 jobs

Unemployment Form
Posted at 1:12 PM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-02 15:12:10-04

Hiring across the U.S. slowed sharply in September as employers added 661,000 jobs for the month, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

The figures fell short of economic forecasts, who had expected about 850,000 new jobs to be created in September. It was the first month since April that net job growth dropped below 1 million. So far, about half of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April as the coronavirus pandemic spread have returned.

"September was the 7th month of the COVID crisis in the U.S. labor market, and the situation is dire," Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, said on Twitter. "Not counting temporary census jobs, our jobs deficit is now 11.0 million jobs."

Nearly half the month's job gains were in leisure and hospitality. The sector added about 320,000 jobs in September as restaurants reopened or expanded their business hours. Still, there are 3.8 million fewer people employed in the sector compared to in February.

Retail trade, health care, professional and business services and warehousing and transportation all added jobs as well. Only one sector — utilities — has fully regained all the jobs lost since February.

Falling jobless rate less rosy than it seems

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in September, down from 8.4%. Yet that decline was mostly driven by nearly 700,000 people exiting the labor force. The government doesn't count people as unemployed if they aren't actively looking for a job.

The jobless rate fell to 7% for White workers, 12.3% for Black workers and 8.9% for Asian workers; unemployment among Hispanics stayed roughly flat at 10.3%.

"[T]he true unemployment rate right now is anyone's guess. What matters is the speed with which the lost jobs in the payroll survey are being recovered, so the fading momentum in recent months is discouraging," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note.

Among the unemployed, the portion who are temporarily laid off is shrinking while the number of permanently unemployed people rises, noted Robert Frick, corporate economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union. "This underscores that job gains from here on will be tougher, and speaks to the need for more stimulus to help the economy," Frick said in a note.

This is the last jobs report released before the November 3 election. This week saw a spate of job-cut announcements from major employers, including airlines, Disney theme parks and the insurer Allstate.

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