US job growth slows more than expected in September

WASHINGTON • US job growth slowed more than expected last month as the recovery from the Covid-19 slump shifts into lower gear amid diminishing government money and a relentless pandemic, leaving many at the risk of being permanently unemployed.

In the last monthly employment report before the Nov 3 presidential election, the US Labour Department said yesterday that non-farm payrolls increased by 661,000 jobs last month after rising 1.49 million in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that 850,000 jobs would be created last month.

Employment growth peaked in June, when payrolls jumped by a record 4.78 million jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 per cent last month from 8.4 per cent in August. While the jobless rate has declined from a high of 14.7 per cent in April, it has been biased down by people misclassifying themselves as being "employed but absent from work".

Yesterday's numbers are sure to become a political football in the race for the White House, for which the economic blow from the pandemic has been a top issue.

For his part, Republican President Donald Trump is likely to tout the fifth straight month of job gains and lower unemployment as a sign of progress for an economy that plunged into recession in February.

But last month's employment gains were the smallest since the jobs recovery started in May and left the labour market a long way from recouping the 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April, indicating slower growth heading into the fourth quarter.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, blames the economic turmoil on the White House's handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 people and infected over seven million in the nation.

Mr Trump said yesterday that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for Covid-19.

New coronavirus cases are rising, with a surge expected in the autumn, which could lead to some restrictions being imposed on businesses in the service sector.

Political uncertainty is increasing and could extend beyond the election, and make businesses cautious about hiring.

Walt Disney said this week that it would lay off roughly 28,000 employees in its theme parks division.

American Airlines and United Airlines, two of the largest US carriers, said they were beginning furloughs of more than 32,000 workers on Thursday, without government assistance.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2020, with the headline US job growth slows more than expected in September. Subscribe