Covid Resurgence Hurts Recovery in Employment

U.S. nonfarm payrolls added 235,000 jobs in August, the third slowest of the 16-month recovery. The gain follows the addition of 1.053 million in July and 962,000 in June. Still, the August gain is the eighth in a row and 15th in the last 16 months, bringing the eight-month gain to 4.687 million and the 16-month post-plunge recovery to 17.029 million. This is still well below the 22.362 million combined loss from March and April of 2020, leaving nonfarm payrolls 5.333 million below the February 2020 peak (see first chart).

Private payrolls posted a 243,000 gain in August after a 798,000 gain in July and 808,000 increase in June. The August rise in private payrolls is also the eighth in a row and 15th in the last 16 months. The August addition brings the eight-month gain to 4.098 million and the 16-month recovery to 16.810 million versus a combined loss of 21.353 million in March and April of 2020, leaving private payrolls 4.543 million below the February 2020 peak (see first chart).

Weakness in August was concentrated in the Retail industry and Leisure and Hospitality industry. Within the 243,000 gain in private payrolls, private services added 203,000 while goods-producing industries added 40,000 versus a monthly average of 585,500 over the prior six months for services and 36,667 for goods.

Within private service-producing industries, Retail lost 28,500 jobs in August, the third decline in the last five months while leisure and hospitality was unchanged for the month after adding 415,000 in July and an average of 349,833 per month over the prior six months. Among other service industries, business and professional services added 74,000 in August, transportation and warehousing gained 53,000, and education and health care services increased by 35,000 (see second chart).

Within the 40,000 gain in goods-producing industries, construction was down 3,000, while durable-goods manufacturing increased by 31,000, nondurable-goods manufacturing added 6,000, and mining and logging industries increased by 6,000 (see second chart).

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