By Sarah Chaney Cambon
The U.S. economy likely continued to regain jobs in November,
though forecasters project the pace slowed amid rising Covid-19
infections and new business restrictions.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal forecast that
employers added 440,000 jobs in November, down from the 638,000
jobs added in October. They project that the unemployment rate
declined slightly to 6.7% from 6.9% in October.
Job growth has slowed each month since June and the economy
faces near-term challenges, including a new surge of coronavirus
infections that triggered some states and localities to impose new
restrictions on business. The onset of winter could deter spending
and job creation in sectors like restaurants that have become more
reliant on business outdoors.
Still, the labor-market recovery from the pandemic's job
destruction this spring has been stronger than most economists
forecast. Many expect widespread vaccine distribution to eventually
help lift the economy as businesses are allowed to reopen and
consumers feel more comfortable traveling, going to the movies and
returning to other in-person activities involving proximity to
"As infection rates go down, as the number of people vaccinated
goes up, then we'll start to see...business activity expand at a
faster rate, and we will see the employment numbers pick up more
strongly," said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Mutual
The labor market has regained slightly more than half of the 22
million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic. The economy overall
also has recovered much of the ground lost earlier this year, even
though the expansion has slowed since the third quarter's rebound.
U.S. consumers boosted their spending in October for the sixth
straight month, and new applications for unemployment benefits -- a
proxy for layoffs -- fell last week after a recent jump.
Aliana Heffernan of Rahway, N.J., age 28, began casually
exploring job opportunities in mid-April, after she was furloughed
from her marketing-specialist role at a New York City ad-tech firm.
In June, her furlough turned permanent, and she kicked the pace of
her job search into high gear, sending out dozens of applications
each day. The search, she said, was "brutal."
"It wasn't hard to find positions that were a good fit. But most
of the time I would find great jobs and never hear a word," said
Ms. Heffernan. "In more than one instance, I interviewed on the
phone and then was ghosted."
The outlook brightened in late October, when an advertising
startup that she had interviewed with in early July got back to her
with an offer. Ms. Heffernan reported for her first day on the job
Nov. 2. The new position, which is fully remote until further
notice, is a step up from her previous job in terms of title,
responsibilities and compensation, she said.
Holiday hiring strengthened in November compared with a year
earlier, according to job site Glassdoor. The gains were driven by
demand for e-commerce jobs.
"There's still holiday hiring, it's just not as we know it,"
said Becky Frankiewicz, president of staffing firm ManpowerGroup
North America. In previous years, the company would be placing
workers in jobs like cashier, clerk or salesperson inside retail
stores, she said. But during this holiday season, openings are
concentrated in roles like delivery driver and warehouse worker,
More broadly, however, the Glassdoor job-openings data suggest
hiring has slowed since October as states navigate a surge in virus
cases. Openings in an array of industries, such as technology and
food services, were down in November from a month earlier.
The number of weekly labor shifts among workers increased 0.1%
in November, down from 0.8% growth in October, according to
Ultimate Kronos Group, a workforce-management software company.
Worker shifts fell month over month in the Midwest and Northeast,
possibly reflecting new business restrictions in those regions as
virus cases increase.
Economists say there are persistent risks of labor-market
scarring, as many Americans are seeing their temporary furloughs
turn permanent. In October, 3.7 million Americans said they were
unemployed due to a permanent job loss, up from 1.3 million in
February, according to the Labor Department.
Many individuals, facing increased child-care responsibilities
or limited job opportunities have stopped looking for work
altogether during the pandemic. The labor-force participation rate,
or the share of Americans working or looking for work, was 61.7% in
October. That is up from April's trough, but remains near the
lowest level since the 1970s.
Lon Hoyt, age 62, played the keyboard in the Broadway musical
"Ain't Too Proud" in March before the coronavirus forced theaters
to close. Mr. Hoyt, who has made a career of directing and playing
music on Broadway, said he hasn't been looking for a new job
because theaters remain shut down. Instead, he is spending time
practicing the piano, cooking and cleaning, or, as he puts it,
becoming "a domestic god."
Mr. Hoyt intends to return to Broadway once widespread vaccine
distribution allows people to attend live entertainment again
without worrying about infection. This period of joblessness has
been a double-edged sword, he said.
"You can relax, but there's also depression that there is no
next gig as of now," Mr. Hoyt said. "The only thing that's helping
is my wife is continuing to work. My friends and I have said we're
on wife support."
Gwynn Guilford contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah Chaney Cambon at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 04, 2020 05:44 ET (10:44 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.