America’s jobs recovery continued in October, as jobs were added for a sixth straight month and the unemployment rate fell further, Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed Friday. That said, the nation still remains down about 10 million jobs since February.
Votes are still being counted in several states and it is yet to be decided who the next president will be. But whoever takes the White House has their work cut out for them. The US job market needs further fixing and the unemployed need more support to make ends meet.
The economy added 638,000 jobs last month, more than economists had expected, even though it was a slowdown from the prior months.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 7.9% in September. It had been the highest jobless rate going into a presidential election.
The drop in joblessness came as a surprise to economists — the consensus estimate for October had been 7.7%.
Many workers have returned to their jobs, as shown by a decline in the number of people on temporary layoff, but there was little change in the number of permanently unemployed workers.
The jobless rate fell across all major demographic groups, including women and minority workers, but the unemployment rate for Black Americans remains in double digits at 10.8%.
Still, the improvements are a sign that the longer-term damage from the pandemic might not be as bad as feared, said Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics.
“We saw unemployment drop more than expected on the back of an increase in the labor force and basically unchanged permanent layoffs. You can’t really complain about this report, aside from the fact there is still a long way to go,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told CNN Business.
But that doesn’t mean America is out of the woods yet.
At the current pace of improvement, the job market would not return to its pre-pandemic level until February 2022, said labor economist Betsey Stevenson.
It’s also important to remember that the monthly jobs report is backward-looking, so the effect of the new wave of Covid-19 infections isn’t yet reflected in Friday’s data, Zhao said.
“The trajectory of the country is definitely not set in stone,” he added.
The advent of winter could be a tricky time for the jobs recovery, as cold weather could end outdoor activities that gained popularity during the pandemic, along the jobs that supported them.
In addition, various government programs created to help jobless workers through the crisis will run out at the end of the year.
This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provided benefits to 9.3 million workers such as the self-employed, who aren’t eligible for regular jobless benefits, in the week of October 17.
Meanwhile, some 4 million workers also receive aid under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides benefits after state benefits are exhausted. The PEUC program will also expire at year-end.