The U.S. added 1.4 million jobs in August while the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, down from 10.2 percent in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday (Sept. 4).
“These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain it,” the BLS said in its report.
The latest numbers beat expectations. Consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg predicted a 9.8 percent jobless rate with 1.35 million jobs created.
Notable job gains last month came in an increase in government employment, specifically the temporary hiring of 238,000 workers for the 2020 Census, for a total of 344,000 jobs, accounting for one-fourth of the over-the-month gain in total nonfarm employment. Other improvements were seen in retail where 249,000 jobs were added, with nearly half of the growth in general merchandise stores.
In addition, there were gains in professional and business services (197,000 jobs), in leisure and hospitality (174,000 jobs) and education and health services.
Still, the number of nonfarm payroll jobs in August was less than the 1.8 million reported for July.
Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said the job market is like a whirlpool, where beneath the surface there are swift cross-currents including job losses.
“The decline in the unemployment rate to well below 10 percent is a pleasant surprise, raising the hope that further improvement will be seen in the months ahead,” he said in a statement. “With 13.6 million persons still listed as unemployed this Labor Day, a substantial number of Americans have little to celebrate about the status of the workforce. On the positive side, the number of temporary layoffs plunged by 3.1 million, still with more than 6 million in that precarious position.”