August 2021 Jobs Report: Employers Added Only 235,000 Jobs

The Labor Department report indicates the impact of the latest Covid-19 wave. Check back for live updates and analysis of the data.

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U.S. employers added 235,000 jobs in August, a marked slowdown.

Sept. 3, 2021Updated 9:00 a.m. ET

August added a disappointing number of jobs.

Cumulative change in jobs since before the pandemic

-20

-15

-10

-5 mil.

April

June

Sept.

Jan. ’21

April

-5.3 million jobs since Feb. 2020

+17 million since April 2020

+235,000
in August

152.5 million jobs in February 2020

Data is seasonally adjusted.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Ella Koeze

The American economy slowed abruptly last month, adding 235,000 jobs, a sharp drop from the huge gains recorded earlier in the summer and an indication that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is putting a damper on hiring.

The Labor Department report on Friday follows a sharp increase in coronavirus cases and deaths that has undermined hopes that restrictions on daily activities were nearing an end.

The unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, compared with 5.4 percent in July. Economists polled by Bloomberg had been looking for again of 725,000 jobs.

The August showing would have been respectable in prepandemic times. But after gains of 962,000 in June and 1.05 million in July — and with more than eight million people unemployed — it was a sharp deceleration.

“Delta is a game-changer,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, an accounting firm in Chicago. “It’s not that people are laying off workers in reaction to Delta but people are pulling back on travel and tourism and going out to eat and that has consequences.”

Restaurant reservations on OpenTable were close to normal levels earlier in the summer, but are now 10 percent below where they were before the pandemic. There has also been a sharp decline in hours worked at restaurants and entertainment venues, according to data from Homebase, which provides time-management software to small businesses.

Leisure and hospitality employment in August was unchanged, according to the Labor Department, after strong gains in previous months. Retail jobs declined by 29,000.

Moreover, the Labor Department data was collected in the second week of August, so it may not reflect the full extent of the Delta spread or the impact of Hurricanes Henri and Ida in the second half of the month.

Although many experts expect economic growth to dip in the current quarter from the annualized rate of 6.5 percent in the spring, the economy is expected to remain in expansion mode for the rest of the year.

Gross domestic product has regained the ground lost in the pandemic. The housing market is robust, and Wall Street has been notching records as corporate results remain strong.

Manufacturing has been more muted, held back by supply chain disruptions and shortages of critical parts like semiconductors for automakers.

For Americans who are out of work, robust hiring is essential if unemployment is to get back to the 3.5 percent rate that prevailed before the pandemic. The plight of the jobless is compounded by the expiration of federally funded unemployment benefits after this week, which will affect an estimated 7.5 million people.

Unemployment fell by 0.2 percentage points in August.

The share of people who have looked for work in the past four weeks or are temporarily laid off, which does not capture everyone who is out of work because of the pandemic

5

10

15%

Jan. ’20

Jan. ’21

5.2%

Data is seasonally adjusted.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Ella Koeze

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