U.S. adds 1.4 million jobs in August, unemployment rate drops to 8.4%

The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs last month, reports the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In August, an increase in government employment largely reflected temporary hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, in professional and business services, in leisure and hospitality, and in education and health services.

Calculated Risk comments

The labor market swings have been huge, and the August employment report was at expectations of 1.4 million jobs added, although private employment was below expectations…

In August, the year-over-year employment change was minus 10.25 million jobs.

As expected, there were 238 thousand temporary Decennial Census workers hired (and included in this report). These jobs will be lost in a few months. “A job gain in federal government (+251,000) reflected the hiring of 238,000 temporary 2020 Census workers.”

The Associated Press adds context.,

The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in August to 8.4% from 10.2% even as employers slowed their hiring again in one of the final major barometers of the economy to be released before Election Day.

Employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, down from 1.7 million in July and the fewest since hiring resumed in May. The economy has recovered barely half the 22 million jobs that vanished when the pandemic paralyzed the nation in early spring.

Economists noted that last month’s sharp drop in the unemployment rate reflected mainly businesses recalling workers who had been temporarily laid off rather than hiring new employees. The influx of those recalled workers has lowered unemployment more quickly than most economists had expected. But many other laid-off Americans now regard their job losses as permanent.

This sounds right.

“The fact that employment is settling into a trend of slower, grinding growth is worrisome for the broader recovery,” said Lydia Boussour, an economist at Oxford Economics. Friday’s jobs report “confirms that the labor market has entered a frustratingly slower second phase of the recovery.”


Many economists think significant hiring may be hard to sustain because employers are operating under a cloud of uncertainty about the virus.