President Joe Biden is addressing the public about the weaker-than-expected August jobs report, as surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant and accompanying legislation providing unemployment supplements weigh on the economic recovery.
The US added just 235,000 jobs last month, way short of the 720,000 new jobs that economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected to see, according to Friday’s highly anticipated jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s the worst monthly increase in jobs seen since January.
At the same time, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent in August, as expected, from 5.4 percent in the month prior, the report said.
That’s still far higher than the 50-year low of 3.5 percent reported in February of last year, before the pandemic gutted the economy.
Leisure and hospitality, the sectors that in recent months had been leading job gains, saw the biggest slowdown in hiring and remained unchanged in August, the feds said.
Instead, professional and business services led the gains in August, picking up 74,000 new jobs.
The disappointing report also comes just a week before the expiration of the federal government’s pandemic-inspired unemployment benefits program, which gives people an extra $300 per month and has been blamed for keeping workers on the sidelines as companies scramble to hire.
Biden has previously committed to allowing that program to expire on Sept. 6.