United States Regains 245,000 Jobs in November
US Job Growth Graph

United States Regains 245,000 Jobs in November

Continuing a trend that began as many areas of the country started reopening this summer, the United States once again added back jobs in November. Unfortunately, the pace of recovery has also slowed significantly.

According to the latest Department of Labor Statistics report, the economy gained 245,000 jobs during the month of November. That is not only the lowest monthly sum since jobs began rebounding in May but is also significantly lower than the 469,000 jobs that economists polled by CNN Business had anticipated. By comparison, October saw 610,000 added (adjusted down from the previously announced 630,000). On the bright side, the U.S. did avoid a reversal, which was thought to be a possibility as COVID-19 infections continue to grow.

With November’s modest gains, the unemployment rate fell from 6.9% last month to 6.7%. However, this is partially due to a dip in the labor force participation rate, which fell to 61.5% in November. Also notable is that, despite job gains each month since May, the U.S. is still down 9.8 million jobs for the year due to losses in March and April.

Looking closer at November’s numbers, private sector job growth was actually stronger but was dragged down by a third straight month of declines in government employment. This included the loss of 93,000 temporary workers who had been hired as part of the 2020 Census effort. That said, certain private-sector industries were also down, including a drop in retail at a time when seasonal hiring typically ramps up.

Offering commentary on the November report, Capital Economics U.S. senior economist Michael Pearce first noted the loss in government jobs before explaining, “The big slowdown, however, reflected a sharp drop off in gains in discretionary services sectors, as the surge in virus cases and renewed restrictions took their toll. Employment in the leisure & hospitality sector rose by just 31,000 last month, after increasing by close to 300,000 the previous month.” Meanwhile Upwork chief economist had some sobering but mixed feelings about the report, writing on Twitter, “Job growth has seriously slowed in November. While still heading in the right direction, at this pace of 245k a month would be 3.3 years until we got back all the jobs we lost. The vaccine is coming, so it won’t take this long, but we are running the risk of backsliding.”

As always, a gain in jobs is always a good thing. The problem is that the immediate future poses some major hurdles for continued growth. For example, while seasonal hiring may not be what it was in years past, it’s possible we could still see layoffs after the holiday season. Additionally, some states and cities have tightened restrictions once again as the pandemic rages on, with California being the largest example of renewed partial shutdowns. Luckily, looking further down the road, continued good news on the vaccine front could be encouraging to employers and employees alike. In the meantime, it’s hard to say which way things will go from here — we’ll just have to wait and see.

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