The number of Americans finding new work slipped to its lowest level in five months in October as stimulus petered out and coronavirus cases rose, although the figures came in well above expectations.
Last month 638,000 Americans found jobs, the US Labor Department said today in its monthly non-farm payrolls report. That was down from 672,000 in September but above the 600,000 number economists had expected.
The jobs gains meant the unemployment rate fell sharply to 6.9 per cent from 7.9 per cent a month earlier. There were 11.1m unemployed people – that is, working-age and looking for jobs – in October, the Department said.
As the data was released, vote-counting continued after the US presidential election on Tuesday. Democrat challenger Joe Biden appeared to be in a strong position to win the close race.
But more Americans voted for President Donald Trump than expected, with polling indicating that they liked his record on the economy.
Going into the coronavirus crisis in February, US unemployment was at 3.5 per cent, its lowest rate in 50 years.
But that number skyrocketed to 14.7 per cent in April – close to Great Depression levels – when coronavirus forced states to lockdown. More than 20m workers were put out of work in a stroke.
Since then, the jobs market has gradually healed as the economy has reopened. The unemployment rate has now fallen for six consecutive months.
Yet the lack of a new stimulus package and rising coronavirus cases appear to be taking a toll on the recovery.
The latest data showed that joblessness was becoming more stretched out for many. The number of people without work for 27 weeks or more rose to 3.6m last month, up 1.2m since September.