The U.S. Jobs Market Just Entered a Somber New Phase

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The U.S. labor market has entered a new, more somber phase.

the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that U.S. companies added a much fewer-than-expected 661,000 new jobs last month, as hiring slowed sharply amid new layoffs and a broader economic slowdown linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 661,000 net new positions were added to a revised gain of 1.489 million in August, pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.9%. The labor force participation rate, a reading of long-term unemployment, fell to 61.4% from 61.7%, while average hourly wages rose 0.1% from August to $29.47.

The numbers were overshadowed by the stunning revelation that U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have contracted Covid-19, casting doubt not only on what the next 32 days before Americans head to the ballot boxes hold, but also on who and how the U.S. will be led as Trump and other staffers combat the virus. 

Within the Friday's jobs report, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 318,000 in September, with almost two-thirds of the gain occurring in food services and drinking establishments.

Retail trade added 142,000 jobs over the month, with clothing and clothing accessories stores accounting for about a quarter of the over-the-month change, the BLS said. Employment in health care and social assistance rose by 108,000, while professional and business services added 89,000 jobs in September. Manufacturing added 66,000 jobs over the month. 

On a different note, the Labor Department said that 19.4 million individuals have been unable to work due to the pandemic and its impact on their employer. Of those still on the job, 22.7% said they teleworked during the month of September, down slightly from 24.3% in August.