July 2021 Jobs Report: Employers Add 943,000 to Payrolls

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July 2021 Jobs Report: Employers Add 943,000 to Payrolls

The American economy roared into midsummer with a strong gain in hiring, but there are questions about its ability to maintain that momentum as the Delta variant of the coronavirus causes growing concern.

Employers added 943,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported Friday, but the data was collected in the first half of the month, before variant-related cases exploded in many parts of the country.

While the economy and job growth overall have been strong in recent months, experts fear that the variant’s spread could undermine those gains if new restrictions become necessary. Already, some events have been canceled, and many companies have pulled back from plans for employees to return to the office in September.

Still, with schools planning to reopen, at least for now, and Americans continuing to dine out and travel, the economy’s expansion remained on track last month. Some experts foresee a slight cooling on the horizon, but most think unemployment will keep falling as the labor market recovers the ground lost in the pandemic.

“Sectors tied to the reopening of the labor market are leading the way, giving some hope that these gains can continue in the months ahead,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed Hiring Lab. “However, the Delta variant does pose a risk to the pace of progress.”

It was the best monthly performance since August 2020, and underscored how far the recovery has come, at least until the Delta variant appeared on the scene.

In remarks delivered from the White House, President Biden hailed the report as a sign that the economy could weather the pandemic, crediting in part his administration’s efforts to encourage workers to get coronavirus vaccinations.

“We will doubtless have ups and downs along the way as we continue to battle the Delta surge of Covid,” Mr. Biden said. “What is indisputable now is the Biden plan is working, the Biden plan produces results, and the Biden plan is moving the country forward.”

The unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, compared with 5.9 percent in June. Before the report, the consensus of economists polled by Bloomberg forecast a gain of 858,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dipping to 5.7 percent.

“This is a great report, very solid in terms of job growth, wage growth and the decline in the unemployment rate,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. “I don’t see the Delta variant derailing the recovery.”

The education arena, often a laggard in July as schools close and teachers go off the payroll, was a leader last month. Instead of letting teachers go as they have in the past, schools kept more workers on the payroll, creating a larger seasonal adjustment upward in the number of teaching jobs.

Local government added 221,000 education jobs, after a jump in June, and 40,000 jobs were added in private education. Leisure and hospitality businesses, which were hit hard by lockdowns last year, recovered further, adding 380,000 jobs. That included 253,000 in food and drinking establishments, along with hiring gains in lodging and in arts, entertainment and recreation.

Manufacturing and construction showed more modest increases, hampered by higher goods prices and a shortage of components like semiconductors. Employment in professional and business services jumped by 60,000, a sign that the white-collar sector is on the upswing.

What’s more, upward revisions for May and June rounded out the positive picture, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics lifting the gain for May by 31,000 and the increase in June by 88,000.

“Business is unbelievable,” said Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a recruiting and staffing firm in Chicago. “Companies are continuing to hire salespeople in numbers that I’ve never seen. It shows me that companies are very optimistic about the future.”

“We’re seeing demand for senior people, but it’s not crazy,” he added. “The huge demand is entry to midlevel, with salaries ranging from $45,000 to $90,000. It’s the rebirth of the middle manager.”

Despite the hiring gains, many managers report difficulty in finding applicants for open positions. Jeanine Lisa Klotzkin manages an outpatient addiction treatment center in White Plains, N.Y., and has had only limited success in her search for addiction counselors.

“Normally, we’d have dozens of candidates,” she said. But six weeks after posting an online job ad, her clinic has received four applications. The positions pay $50,000 to $63,000 a year, said Ms. Klotzkin, who added: “These aren’t low-wage jobs. I don’t know where the people went.”

Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

Source: New York Times

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