Washington (AFP) -
The US economy added 1.4 million jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, the Labor Department said Friday, a sign of the continuing recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The drop in the unemployment rate from 10.2 percent in July was much more than expected, and brought on by a surge in temporary hires for the US census, as well as a recovery in some sectors that were badly hit by shutdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic.
'Great Jobs Numbers!' President Donald Trump tweeted. 'Broke the 10% level faster and deeper than thought possible.'
However, employment in the world's largest economy was down 11.5 million jobs or 7.6 percent from its level before the pandemic in February, and economists warned that without the census hiring, August's report was actually weaker than it appeared.
The government has hired nearly 600,000 workers in the past two months.
'The recovery is rapidly decelerating and we still have half of the lost jobs to get back. That shouldn't be happening,' Adam Ozimek, chief economist at freelancing platform Upwork, said on Twitter.
- Retail comeback -
The United States has seen tens of millions of layoffs since businesses shut down in mid-March to stop the spread of the virus, and though unemployed workers filing for government benefits have declined from their peak, the Labor Department said an average of nearly one million new jobless claims were filed every week in August.
The employment report showed the number of people on temporary layoff decreased by 3.1 million to 6.2 million, well below the peak of 18.1 million in April. However the number of permanent job losses also increased 534,000 to 3.4 million.
Public sector jobs made up a quarter of the overall gains in the report, with 344,000 new jobs total, 238,000 of which were for the census.
The leisure and hospitality sector, one of the hardest hit by the business closures, saw growth of 174,000 jobs, with three quarters of that coming from food service and drinking places.
Retail is one of the sectors that has seen a strong recovery from the downturn, adding 249,000 jobs in August, according to the report.
But manufacturing jobs increased by just 29,000.