At any other time, hiring at that level would be seen as a blowout gain. But after employers shed a staggering 22 million jobs in March and April, much larger increases are needed to heal the job market. The hiring of the past three months has recovered only 42% of the jobs lost to the pandemic-induced recession, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report released Friday.
And now, with much of the nation having paused or reversed plans to restore economic activity, many employers are still reluctant or unable to hire and consumers remain generally hesitant to shop, travel, or eat out. Until the health crisis is solved through a vaccine or an effective treatment, most experts say the economy will struggle to sustain any recovery.
Though the unemployment rate fell last month from 11.1% to 10.2%, that level still exceeds the highest rate during the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
The number of Americans who filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 1.434 million, the Labor Department reported Thursday, roughly in line with expectations, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. economy. It was the 19th straight week in which initial claims totaled at least 1 million and the second consecutive week in which initial claims rose after declining for 15 straight weeks.
Economists polled by Dow Jones had expected claims to rise to 1.45 million for the week ending July 25.
In a separate report, the government said second-quarter gross domestic product plunged a historic 32.9% on an annualized basis. Although it wasn’t as bad as the expected 34.7% decline, it was the worst drop ever, with the closest previously coming in mid-1921.
The U.S. economy added 4.8 million jobs in June, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department, as the gradual easing of coronavirus-related restrictions helped more businesses reopen and bring back workers.
The unemployment rate also fell to 11.1 percent last month, according to the report, as more workers who were laid off earlier this year were able to return to their pre-pandemic jobs.
Economists expected the U.S. to add anywhere between 1 million and 3 million jobs for the month after the U.S. added 2.7 million in May, according to revised figures, despite widespread predictions of another decline.
Stocks fell for a second day on Thursday following the release of disappointing unemployment data while traders grappled with a rising number of coronavirus cases. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 200 points lower, or 0.8%. The S&P 500 slid 0.7% while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.8%. An additional 1.48 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a print of 1.35 million. This marks the second straight week that U.S. jobless claims data were worse than expected.
“No matter which way you look at it, over a million unemployed is a very bad thing,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. “It will take some time to unwind the structural damage COVID has caused across the world.”
“While it’s certainly uncomfortable, the everyday investor should be used to ongoing market volatility at this point,” Loewengart said.