U.S. Adds 1.4 Million Jobs in August – Unemployment Falls to 8.4%

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he U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August as the unemployment rate unexpectedly tumbled, indicating the nation’s labor market is continuing a slow, but steady, recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department’s payroll report released Friday showed the jobless rate fell sharply to 8.4%, down from 10.2% in June. It marks the first time since March that unemployment is below 10%.

Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected the report to show that unemployment dropped to 9.8% and the economy added 1.4 million jobs. It’s well below the combined 7.5 million jobs added in May and June before hiring cooled in July, with 1.9 million added.

“We are still moving in the right direction and the pace of the jobs recovery seems to have picked up, but it still looks like it will take a while – and likely a vaccine – before we get back close to where we were at the beginning of this year,” said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank.

Still, joblessness remains historically high. The unemployment rate sat at 3.5% in February, a half-century low, before the crisis began.

Government hiring helped boost the figure, with employment increasing by 344,000 in August — accounting for one-fourth of the total gains. The increase stemmed largely from the federal government’s hiring of 238,000 temporary Census workers. Despite fears about budget shortfalls, local governments hired 95,000 employees last month.

Other notable gains came from retail, which added 249,000 new jobs, and professional and business services, which jumped by 197,000. Leisure and hospitality, the hardest-hit sector during the pandemic, increased by 174,000 positions, a majority of which stemmed from bars and restaurants.

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