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WORKSPAN
WORKSPAN DAILY |

U.S. Economy Adds 235,000 Jobs in August


The United States economy took a significant step back in August, as job creation came to a halt after a promising July report. Just 235,000 jobs were added according to the Labor Department’s jobs report on Friday. Despite the low job numbers, the unemployment rate did drop to 5.2% from 5.4%.

Economists had expected a gain of 720,000 jobs and the 235,000 figure was the worst since January. The report accentuates heightened fears that rising COVID cases stifle the economic recovery that’s been underway for the better part of 2021.

“The labor market recovery hit the brakes this month with a dramatic showdown in all industries,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at jobs site Glassdoor told CNBC.  “Ultimately, the Delta variant wave is a harsh reminder that the pandemic is still in the driver’s seat, and it controls our economic future.”

August’s report is particularly disappointing after a sizzling start to the summer labor market. There were 962,000 jobs added in June and 1.05 million in July — and with more than eight million people unemployed — August represented a sharp deceleration.

“Delta is a game-changer,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, an accounting firm in Chicago, told the New York Times. “It’s not that people are laying off workers in reaction to Delta but people are pulling back on travel and tourism and going out to eat and that has consequences.”

Leisure and hospitality jobs, which had been the primary driver of overall gains at 350,000 per month for the past six months, stalled in August as the unemployment rate in the industry ticked higher to 9.1%.

 

Instead, professional and business services led with 74,000 new positions. Other gainers included transportation and warehousing (53,000), private education (40,000) and manufacturing and other services, which each posted gains of 37,000.

Retail lost 29,000, with the bulk coming from food and beverage stores, which saw a decrease of 23,000.

The report comes with the U.S. seeing about 150,000 new COVID cases, spurring worries that the recovery could stall heading into the final part of the year. August saw an increase in about 400,000 people who said they couldn’t work for pandemic-related reasons, pushing the total up to 5.6 million.

While the Delta variant is still stoking concerns about economic recovery heading into the fourth quarter of 2021, there were some continued positive developments from the report. Wages continued to accelerate, rising 4.3% on a year-over-year basis and up .6% from July.

Additionally, an alternative measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons fell sharply, dropping to 8.9% in August from 9.6% in July.

About the Author

 Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.


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