New employment numbers show promise for 2021

According to brand new numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy added 1.4 million jobs in August as furloughed workers continue to return to work and employers begin hiring once again. While the total number of jobs is still well below pre-pandemic levels, these encouraging numbers could indicate a strengthening economy as summer draws to a close. 

The BLS report also cited a decline in the unemployment rate by almost 2 percentage points, bringing the total rate to 8.4 percent, or 13.6 million people. The unemployment rate declined the most for teenagers (16%), blacks (13%), and Hispanics (10.5%). 

In reference to the unemployment rate, “We still have a long way to go,” cautioned Beth Ann Bovino, chief economist at S & P Global Ratings Services. But, “We’re finally in single-digit territory — that’s a positive.”

Over 230,000 of those jobs added were temporary Census workers hired by the U.S. Government.

The hard-hit retail sector added almost 250,000 new jobs while the leisure and hospitality industries (like restaurants and bars) added $147,000 jobs. 

Unemployment has risen among recent college graduates by 3.4% and almost 7% among high school dropouts. Payroll growth has also flattened over the past three months to 1.4 million in August – down from almost 5 million in June. 

Though encouraging on the surface, not everyone is super optimistic. “Several disturbing facts can be seen in these numbers as well,” writes Harry Holzer for Forbes. “18.5 million more Americans are either still not working or working part-time involuntarily compared to February.”

And, over a third of those who were temporarily laid off are now permanently laid off, which is “a group that will likely suffer reduced employment and earnings for years to come,” Holzer added.

“Over 60% of the unemployed have been out of work for 15 or more weeks, which we consider the beginning of long-term unemployment – another category of workers that has increasing difficulty finding new jobs.”

The US stock market has rallied as of late, helping propel the notion that the economy may have rebounded from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, though still far from a full recovery.

Since March, the S&P 500 has risen by nearly 50% despite the sell-off in tech stocks in early September.