Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images
A few months ago, forecasters thought September would be a record hiring month.
Schools would reopen, freeing parents to return to work. Additional unemployment benefits that some employers criticized for keeping workers on the sidelines would expire. More importantly, widespread immunizations would put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.
It didn’t exactly work that way.
Employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, according to a monthly snapshot from the Ministry of Labor. It’s even worse than the anemic job gains in August and well below the hiring rate in early summer, when employers added about a million jobs per month.
“It’s just a bumpy recovery,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at payroll company ADP. “And it’s a recovery that is still tied to the pandemic and the delta variant.”
A wave of new coronavirus cases put the brakes on hiring in August, when employers added just 366,000 jobs. Restaurants and retail stores actually cut employees this month as fear of the virus discouraged customers from eating out and shopping.
There is still room for hope.
Since August, the health outlook has improved. New infections, hospitalizations and deaths have all declined in recent weeks.
Bars and restaurants created 29,000 jobs in September, while retailers added 56,000, suggesting consumers are tiptoeing out and spending money again. The entertainment and leisure industries also created 43,000 jobs.
Last month’s employment picture may also have been artificially deteriorated by statistical adjustments. The report shows that local school districts cut 144,000 jobs in September, but that could be misleading. The Department of Labor is trying to correct seasonal hiring patterns, but those adjustments have been reversed this year by pandemic changes in the school calendar. Last month’s “job cuts” in the education sector may have been the payback of an apparent hiring earlier in the summer.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in September from 5.2% in August, although part of the drop was attributable to dropping out of the labor force.
Employers hoped that the expiration of pandemic unemployment programs would encourage more people to return to work. So far, there are few signs of this. While more than 7 million people dropped off unemployment lists when programs expired across the country in early September, the number of people working or looking for work last month has actually declined.
However, some employers are convinced that the end of benefits will result in more job applicants.
“We’ve seen it,” says Mike Parra, CEO of the Americas region for delivery company DHL Express. “The moment [benefits] stopped in Ohio and Kentucky, we saw a mad dash through buildings. ”
Parra has been trying since June to recruit staff for the busy holiday season.
“It wasn’t easy,” he says. “It’s definitely different from the past because, first and foremost, of the pandemic itself.”
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images
Schools reopen and it can be good for employers
Reopening schools this fall could give the job market a boost by allowing more parents to return to work.
Census surveys show that the number of people who are not working because they have children at home has risen from nearly 8 million in mid-summer to around 5 million today.
Presumably, many parents who left the workforce during the pandemic will return once their concerns about childcare and the virus are resolved.
One of the biggest unknowns, however, is whether older people who have given up will return to work.
“It seems a lot of people who have reached retirement age are choosing to retire rather than stay in the workforce, which is a big, big change from the pre-pandemic period, when people were doing well into their sixties and well past 65, “said Tim. Fiore, who conducts a monthly survey of plant managers for the Institute for Supply Management.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, 68, is not convinced all of these older workers have received their last pay. As the outlook for public health and the job market improves, Powell hopes at least a few experienced hands will decide to return to work.
“Tradition has it that people don’t come out of retirement,” Powell said last week at a congressional hearing. “Except I would say, throughout the last few years of the very long expansion that ended with the pandemic, we have been constantly surprised at the increase in participation, including older people who are staying in the market longer. work.”