By Sarah Chaney Cambon
U.S. job growth slowed sharply in November, suggesting the
labor-market recovery is losing steam amid a surge in coronavirus
cases and new business restrictions.
Employers added 245,000 jobs last month, down from 610,000 jobs
in October, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment
rate edged down slightly to 6.7% in November from 6.9% a month
earlier, but that was partly because fewer Americans were seeking
November marked the seventh consecutive month of job gains at a
steadily cooling pace. The labor market has now regained 12 million
of the 22 million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic. At
November's pace of job growth, employment won't return to
pre-pandemic levels until 2024, Glassdoor senior economist Daniel
"We saw positive job gains, but I think the sentiment is largely
negative because we know that we're heading into a dark winter,"
Mr. Zhao said. "There is a long way to go before we actually have a
vaccine in hand and make a full economic recovery."
Employers boosted jobs in transportation and warehousing last
month, likely reflecting holiday hiring for e-commerce roles.
Government payrolls declined by nearly 100,000, largely reflecting
the roll-off of temporary workers hired for the 2020 census.
Employment also fell in the retail category that includes
The U.S. economy overall has recovered much of the ground lost
earlier this year, even though the expansion has lost momentum
since the third quarter's rapid rebound. 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.
The nation's trade deficit widened in October as exports and
imports both rose in October for a fifth straight month, the
Commerce Department reported Friday, reflecting a continued
recovery in global commerce from the impact of the pandemic.
The trade deficit rose to a seasonally adjusted $63.1 billion in
October from $62.1 billion in September. Exports rose 2.2% to
$182.0 billion from the previous month, while imports rose 2.1% to
The economy faces near-term challenges, including a new wave of
virus 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. Food services and
drinking places cut jobs in November for the first time since
Still, the labor-market recovery from the 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 other people.
Economists say there are persistent risks of labor-market
scarring. 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 61.5% in November. That is up from April's trough,
but remains near the lowest level since the 1970s.
The number of individuals out of the labor force who want a job
increased in November to 7.1 million, Friday's Labor Department
Lon Hoyt, 62 years old, 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 dark. 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."
President-elect Joe Biden said Friday's employment figures
reflected economic weakness. "This is a grim jobs report. It shows
an economy that is stalling," he said in a statement.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic
Council, noted the report also provides evidence of economic
recovery. "There's still a lot of suffering out there I agree. But
I will also argue the economy has registered a very strong comeback
from the peak of the pandemic contraction, including today's jobs
numbers with the 6.7% unemployment right now," he told
The weaker-than-expected jobs report spurred congressional
lawmakers of both parties to continue efforts to craft a
coronavirus relief bill. Negotiators are currently hashing out the
details of a roughly $900 billion plan, which includes a $300
weekly unemployment benefits supplement.
Friday's report highlighted the growing role of e-commerce
hiring this holiday season as many consumers opt to order gifts
online rather than shop in stores during the pandemic. Companies in
transportation and warehousing added 145,000 jobs in November.
Meanwhile, employment declined among bricks-and-mortar retailers
like sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.
"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,
The number of people on temporary layoff fell last month,
suggesting employers continue to rehire workers.
But the number of the so-called long-term unemployed -- those
without work for 27 weeks or more -- rose by 385,000 to 3.9 million
in November, accounting for 36.9% of the total counted as
Aliana Heffernan of Rahway, N.J., 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.
Gwynn Guilford contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah Chaney Cambon at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 04, 2020 16:08 ET (21:08 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.