Jobs Report Beats Estimates but Remains in Deep Hole

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday morning that U.S. nonfarm employment rose by 661,000 in September and the unemployment rate declined to 7.9%. Consensus estimates had called for employment to increase by 894,000 jobs and for the unemployment rate to come in at 8.2%. In August, the U.S. unemployment rate was 8.4%.

In September, 19.4 million people reported that they had been unable to work at all or only to work fewer hours because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. While that is an improvement from 24.2 million who reported similar coronavirus-related losses in August, the total remains stubbornly high.

About 4.5 million people reported that they were unable to look for work due to the pandemic, again fewer than the 5.2 million in August, but still high.

The labor participation rate fell from 61.7% in August to 61.4% where economists had been looking for an increase to 61.8%.  The BLS noted that the rate is 2 percentage points below the February reading.

Among worker groups, the unemployment rate fell for adult men (to 7.4%), adult women (7.7%), whites (7.0%) and Asians (8.9%), while it remained mostly unchanged for teenagers (at 15.9%), Blacks (12.1%) and Hispanics (10.3%).

A recent study from McKinsey and Company reported than more than one in four women are considering leaving their jobs or changing their career plans due to the pandemic. Co-author Jess Huang noted, “We see that mothers are really struggling. We see that senior women are feeling burnt out, exhausted, like they always have to be on, and we’re seeing that Black women are having additional challenges on top of challenges they already faced in the workplace.”

Friday’s report on the employment situation is the last ahead of the November election and does not particularly bode well for the president. When Trump took office in 2017, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.8%.

The nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic remains roughly K-shaped, with some groups faring reasonably well and others suffering more.

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