Payroll growth slows to 661,000

Nonfarm payroll rose by a lower than expected 661,000 in September and the unemployment rate was 7.9%, the Labor Department said Friday in the final jobs report before the November election.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a payrolls gain of 800,000 and the unemployment rate to fall to 8.2% from 8.4% in August.

The decline in the unemployment rate came along with a 0.3 percentage point drop in the labor force participation rate to 61.4%. However, a separate, more encompassing measure that counts discouraged workers and those working part-time for economic reasons also saw a notable decline, falling from 14.2% to 12.8%.

Leisure and hospitality led job gains with 318,000 while retail added 142,000 and health care and social assistance increased by 108,000.

Markets reacted little to the news, with stocks still heading for a lower open following news that President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for Covid-19.

Despite the deceleration in job creation, there were some positive signs as the economy continues its pandemic-era recovery.

Those reporting being on temporary layoff fell by 1.5 million to 4.6 million. Workers holding part-time jobs for economic reasons fell by 1.3 million to 6.3 million, and the totals for longer-term layoffs also decreased considerably.

The temporary layoff total peaked at 18.1 million as payrolls fell by 22 million in March and April.

However, permanent job losses increased by 345,000 to 3.8 million, in total a 2.5 million increase since February, the month before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic.

The report comes amid a raft of mostly positive economic signals, including strong signs from the housing market and retail spending, as well as worries that rising coronavirus cases could threaten the recovery.

While millions more remain unemployed, September’s activity means that about 12 million jobs have been recovered since the mid-March economic shutdown that saw about 22 million layoffs.

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