As it does on the first Friday of each month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest jobs report this morning.
The August numbers find the U.S. economy adding nearly 1.4 million jobs last month. That figure represents a decline from the 1.7 million new jobs added in July, and a significant decrease from the nearly 5 million jobs added in June.
The unemployment rate continued to drop, however, with August’s rate sitting at 8.4%, compared to nearly 15% in April and 10% in July, for example. As the New York Times reports, the current rate is now “below the peak of the last recession a decade ago, when unemployment briefly hit 10%, but joblessness is still higher than the peak of many past recessions.”
August’s decrease was sharper than some experts expected, with many attributing the drastic drop-off to workers who had been laid off beginning to find work again in notable numbers. The private sector also showed job growth in August, and the month’s employment totals also received a boost from the hiring of nearly 240,000 temporary U.S. census workers, most of whom, as the Times points out, will be laid off later in September.
These gains are also offset by increases in permanent job losses, to 3.4 million. Overall, employment remains down from pre-coronavirus levels, with the U.S. economy down 11.5 million jobs since February.
Some economists voiced concern that the pace of job growth is slowing, cautioning that another wave of considerable job losses could be right around the corner.
“Unfortunately, the easier job gains are over, and now we’ll be battling permanent layoffs once thought to be temporary, bankruptcies, secondary layoffs and maybe major layoffs in the airline industry,” Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told MarketWatch.
“Expect that, starting this month, we’ll struggle to drop the unemployment rate as much, and possibly see break-even jobs months and even backsliding.”
Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed, painted a similar picture when he spoke to MarketWatch.
“More people with more jobs is something to celebrate, but we need to be concerned about how sustainable these gains will be. The labor market is clearly losing momentum, and the foundations appear fragile. With federal stimulus programs still lapsed and the threat of a second wave of the virus this fall, it’s not clear the labor market can keep improving on its own.”
About the Author
Mark McGraw is the managing editor of Workspan.