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September Employment Numbers Disappoint

David Krechevsky
Oct 08, 2021
U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. added 194,000 jobs, well below the expected 500,000; unemployment rate falls to 4.8%

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • September employment report fails to liver up to expectations as Delta variant surged.

The good news: the national unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in September, down 0.4 percentage points from August, the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics reported this morning.

The bad news: total nonfarm employment in September rose by 194,000, well below the 500,000-plus that was forecast by analysts. The expectation ahead of the report was, in party, that schools reopening last month would allow parents otherwise in need of daycare services to return to work. A surge in the Delta variant of the coronavirus also likely hindered improvement in the employment numbers.

So far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 561,000. Nonfarm employment has increased by 17.4 million since a recent trough in April 2020, but is down by 5 million, or 3.3%, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed people, which fell in September by 710,000 to 7.7 million, were down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession, the bureau said. Still, they remain above their levels before the COVID-19 pandemic (3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020).

Notable job gains were reported in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month.

Professional and business services added 60,000 jobs in September. Employment continued to increase in architectural and engineering services (+15,000), management and technical consulting services (+15,000), and computer systems design and related services (+9,000). However, employment in professional and business services is still 385,000 below its level in February 2020.

Construction employment rose by 22,000 in September but has shown little net change so far in 2021. Employment in construction is also 201,000 below its February 2020 level. Little change was seen in the financial activities sector, the bureau said.

The labor force participation rate, at 61.6%, changed little in September and has remained within a narrow range of 61.4% to 61.7% since June 2020. This is 1.7 percentage points lower than in February 2020.

The number of people not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6 million in September, little changed from August but up by 959,000 since February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed, the bureau said, because they were not actively looking for work during the last four weeks or were unavailable to take a job.

The report also noted that In September, 13.2% of employed people teleworked because of the pandemic, little changed from August. The data refer to employed people who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last four weeks specifically because of the pandemic.

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