Business & Economy

US unemployment rate edges down despite sharp dip in job growth

Washington, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The unemployment rate in the United States fell by two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.7 percent in November, a month in which the world’s largest economy added only 245,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday.

November marked the seventh straight month of employment gains, following massive coronavirus-triggered job losses in March and April unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But last month also saw a sharp slowdown in employment growth compared to October, when 610,000 jobs were created despite a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.

In fact, the November increase was the lowest since the US labor market began to recover from the impact of states’ lockdown orders, which led to the elimination of 20.7 million jobs in April and May.

“In the private sector, notable employment gains occurred in transportation and warehousing, professional and business services and health care, while retail trade lost jobs,” William Beach, the commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), said in a statement on the US’s current employment situation.

The US has recovered just under half of the jobs lost at the start of the crisis, and employment growth in November was far below the level of 460,000 expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The labor market outlook remains uncertain at a time when the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the crisis stands at 14.2 million and 276,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19. In recent weeks, coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths have continued to rise.

With just over a month remaining until President-elect Joe Biden takes office and after months of inaction, there are signs that Congress is closer to approving a second coronavirus stimulus package.

An earlier economic stimulus bill – the $2.2-trillion CARES Act, which among other measures to address the economic impact of Covid-19 included roughly $300 billion in one-time cash payments to individual Americans – was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March.

The private sector added 344,000 jobs last month, down from an increase of 877,000 in October; employment in government, meanwhile, fell by 99,000 jobs, down from a drop of 267,000 in October (which included the loss of 147,000 temporary 2020 census jobs).

The official unemployment rate (U-3), which had held steady at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent for several months until the pandemic slammed the US economy, rose sharply at the start of the coronavirus crisis and shot up to 14 percent in May.

It started falling as individual states began easing pandemic restrictions in May, spurring a positive trend in the economy, though the improvement remains uneven and tentative.

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 percent last month, down slightly from 12.1 percent in October.

The US economy normally adds jobs in the lead-up to the year-end holiday season, but a new wave of coronavirus infections has prompted states and cities to impose new restrictions on commercial activities.

On Thursday, the BLS said the number of first-time filings for jobless benefits (a proxy for layoffs) fell to a still-high 712,000 last week, compared to 787,000 the week before, as new coronavirus-triggered restrictions on business continued to take their toll on the job market.

The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which smooths out week-to-week variations, came in at 739,500, a slight decrease of 11,250 from the previous week’s average.

The average number for initial jobless claims had stood at around 205,000 for several months until the impact of the pandemic on the labor market began to be felt in late February.

Continued claims (individuals who have filed for jobless benefits for at least two straight weeks) fell to 5.52 million for the week ended Nov. 21, down from 6.09 million the previous week, the government said. EFE-EPA


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