U.S. employers added only 210,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, dampening hopes the economy is rebounding from a summer slowdown sparked by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus and supply chain disruptions.
Millions of Americans laid off during the pandemic-induced recession remained without work last month despite employers offering higher wages, expiring unemployment benefits and schools reopening. This has fueled questions among economists about whether some people are willing to reenter the workforce during the ongoing pandemic.
The report fell far short of expectations of about 550,000 new jobs last month, according to economists polled by Reuters. Last month’s 210,000 new jobs were also far fewer than the 546,000 jobs added in October and the year’s monthly average of 555,000. There were 194,000 new hires in September.
The unemployment rate in November fell to 4.2% from 4.6% the month before, inching closer to the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5 percent, the lowest rate in more than 50 years.
“Our economy is markedly stronger than it was a year ago and today the incredible news (is) that our unemployment rate has fallen to 4.2%. At this point in the year, we’re looking at the sharpest one-year decline in unemployment ever. Simply put, America is back to work,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at the White House Friday.
“The unemployment rate has now fallen by more than two percentage points since I took office,” Biden added. “That’s the fastest decline in a single year on record.”
November’s modest job gains and the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 could weaken expectations for stronger economic growth in the fourth quarter. The economy is currently expected to grow at a 7% annual rate in the fourth quarter, a strong rebound from the 2.1% pace in the third quarter, when the delta variant stymied growth.
While little is known about the omicron variant, some slowdown in hiring is likely, considering the delta variant triggered the slowest pace of economic growth in more than a year last quarter.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.