CORONAVIRUS

US employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as delta maintains hold

Oct 8, 2021, 7:45 AM
A 'Now Hiring' sign is posted at a 7-Eleven store on Aug. 06, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. (Ph...
A 'Now Hiring' sign is posted at a 7-Eleven store on Aug. 06, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, a second straight tepid gain and evidence that the pandemic still has a grip on the economy with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2% in August. Last month’s job gains fell shy of even the modest 336,000 that the economy had added in August and were the fewest since December, when employers actually cut jobs.

The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with confirmed new COVID-19 infections declining, restaurant traffic picking up slightly and consumers willing to spend. But new infections remained high as September began. And employers are still struggling to find workers because many people who lost jobs in the pandemic have yet to start looking again. Supply chain bottlenecks have also worsened, slowing factories, restraining homebuilders and emptying some store shelves.

The proportion of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one — known as labor participation — declined in September from 61.7% to 61.6%, well below the pre-pandemic level of 63.3%, Friday’s report said. Many economists had hoped that the reopening of schools, the expiration of federal unemployment benefits and a quickening pace of vaccinations would have led more to search for jobs. That didn’t happen last month.

Last month’s drop in labor participation was reflective entirely of women, suggesting that many working mothers are still caring for children at home. For men, labor participation was unchanged. Even though schools reopened in September, some after-school programs weren’t yet in place to provide all-day care. And child care has become scarcer and costlier in many cases. In addition, COVID outbreaks have forced some temporary school shutdowns that make it hard for working mothers to hold down jobs.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, noted in a recent speech that COVID-19 outbreaks in late September caused 2,000 schools to close for an average of six days in 39 states.

Many economists still think that most of the roughly 3 million people who lost jobs and stopped looking for work since the pandemic struck will resume their searches as COVID wanes. It took years after the 2008-2009 recession, they note, for the proportion of people working or seeking work to return to pre-recession levels. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they’re actively looking for jobs.

Another factor behind the weakness in hiring was a sharp drop in local government education jobs. The number of such jobs fell by 144,000 last month despite the reopening of schools. That decline suggests that many local school systems didn’t hire as many people as they typically do. Many have had trouble finding enough bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other support staff.

In most industries outside education, job growth in September fared as well as or better than in August. Transportation and warehousing, for example, which has been boosted by a spike in online shopping, added 47,000 jobs. Manufacturers added 26,000. Restaurants, hotels and amusement parks, though, gained just 74,000 positions, more than in August but far below the pace in the summer, when they were adding hundreds of thousands of workers a month.

Several enhanced unemployment benefits ended in early September, including a $300-a-week federal supplement as well as programs that, for the first time, covered gig workers and people who were jobless for six months or more. So far, the ending of those programs appears to have had only a small effect on the number of people seeking work.

Another reason workers are scarce is a surge in retirements among older, more affluent workers whose home equity and stock portfolios have surged since the pandemic struck and who have managed to build up savings. Goldman Sachs estimates that about 1.5 million people have retired who wouldn’t have before the pandemic upended the economy. Many of these people will likely stay retired, economists expect.

In the meantime, fear of COVID continues to keep some would-be job seekers on the sidelines, notably those who previously worked in public-facing service jobs at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

FILE: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon July 21,...
TARA COPP, Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops.
1 day ago
flu shot tripledemic...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The rise of respiratory viruses and COVID’s impact

It’s not even winter yet, and the CDC is warning that the country is experiencing a resurgence of respiratory viruses, which are taking a toll on hospitals and children.
2 days ago
RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
6 days ago
Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in protest in Beijing, Sunday, Nov....
Jessie Yeung and CNN's Beijing bureau

Rare protests are spreading across China. Here’s what you need to know

From Shanghai to Beijing, protests have erupted across China in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.
6 days ago
Police officers block Shanghai's Urumqi Road on Sunday. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)...
CNN's Beijing bureau and Nectar Gan

Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy

Protests erupted across China throughout the weekend, including at universities and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted "Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!"
7 days ago
Salt Lake City Police at the University of Utah Hospital due to a possible bomb threat. (Salt Lake ...
Michael Houck

Police: Unattended bag led to bomb squad response at U of U Hospital

Salt Lake City Police responded to a possible bomb threat at the University of Utah hospital Tuesday afternoon.
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
US employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as delta maintains hold