Labor & Workforce

US unemployment falls amid surprising job gains

Washington, Nov 6 (efe-epa).- The unemployment rate in the United States fell by a percentage point last month to 6.9 percent as the world’s largest economy created 638,000 jobs despite a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, the Labor Department said Friday.

October was the sixth straight month of growth in employment following Great Depression-scale job losses in March, when much of the economy was shut down in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The consensus forecast of economists surveyed by Dow Jones had called for 530,000 new jobs and a modest decline in the unemployment rate from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent.

“These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in its latest report on the employment situation.

“In October, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the BLS said, while noting a reduction in public sector employment due mainly to the elimination of temporary positions connected with the 2020 Census.

The broader U-6 measure of unemployment, which includes people working part-time who would prefer a full-time position and workers who have given up looking for a job, came in at 12.1 percent last month, down from 12.8 percent in September.

Unemployment stood at a 50-year-low of 3.5 percent before the pandemic slammed the US economy.

The sharp drop in economic activity saw 20 people lose their jobs in March alone, driving the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent. By the end of April, more than 30 million Americans had been laid off.

Individual states began easing pandemic restrictions in May, spurring a positive trend in the economy, though the improvement remains uneven and tentative.

No country in the world has been hit harder by Covid-19 than the US, with 235,000 deaths and 9.7 million confirmed cases. And though fatalities and infections dipped during the summer, they are surging again both here and in Europe.

The labor force participation rate – the share of the population 16 and over either working or seeking work – edged up 0.3 percent in October to 61.7 percent.

To put that statistic in context, the participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent in January 2000. The rate is now roughly the same level as in the mid-1970s.

The number of new applications for unemployment benefits during the week ending Oct. 31 was 751,000, down from 791,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The ranks of people receiving jobless benefits shrank from 7.8 million to 7.3 million during the second half of October.

While the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed in March to address the economic impact of Covid-19 included an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits, those supplementary payments expired at the end of July.

President Donald Trump and the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives continued to negotiate in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election on a new pandemic relief package.

The sides failed to reach agreement and Trump’s fellow Republicans in the Senate signaled an unwillingness to consider a second round of spending of the same magnitude as the CARES Act.

EFE jab/dr

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