Unemployment 2020

U.S. unemployment rate falls to 8.4% even as hiring slows

David Brancaccio, Meredith Garretson, and Alex Schroeder Sep 4, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A lot of people who were on temporary furlough actually got their jobs back, including those in the retail sector. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
Unemployment 2020

U.S. unemployment rate falls to 8.4% even as hiring slows

David Brancaccio, Meredith Garretson, and Alex Schroeder Sep 4, 2020
A lot of people who were on temporary furlough actually got their jobs back, including those in the retail sector. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images
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COPY

The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in August to 8.4%  from 10.2%, even as hiring slowed in August as employers added the fewest jobs since the pandemic began. Employers added 1.4 million jobs, the Labor Department said Friday, down from 1.7 million in July.

The U.S. economy has recovered about half the 22 million jobs lost to the pandemic.

Julia Coronado, president and founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives, spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: So you spotted right away who was doing a lot of the hiring. The answer is?

Julia Coronado: The census. So we were expecting the census to add a lot of jobs. These are temporary census data collectors. They added more than 200,000 jobs. If we look, excluding census, at the private sector hiring that was about a million jobs. That’s down from 1.5 million in July. So a little bit of loss of momentum and hiring.

Brancaccio: A little bit of a loss of momentum. And it looks like a lot of people who were on temporary furlough, but still tenuously connected to their old jobs, actually got their jobs back.

Coronado: Yes, that is still the story here. Lots of reconnections. The retail sector, for example, added 250,000 workers. So there is still lots of reconnections going on. And, in the coming months, what we’re going to be looking for is whether there are more permanent layoffs underway. We’re seeing lots of company announcements along those lines.

Brancaccio: What accounts for the unemployment rate falling to a lower-than-expected 8.4%?

Coronado: Good hiring numbers are driving the unemployment rate lower. It was a little bit more than expected. What we’re not seeing is people leaving the labor force, which could actually push the unemployment rate lower. The participation rate actually rose a little bit in August.

With reporting from The Associated Press

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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