Home Business US adds 245,000 jobs in November as COVID-19 surge hampers labor market

US adds 245,000 jobs in November as COVID-19 surge hampers labor market

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The US economy added 245,000 jobs in November — barely more than half the number economists expected — as the coronavirus’ resurgence hampered the labor market’s recovery from the pandemic.

The unemployment rate barely dropped to 6.7 percent last month from 6.9 percent in October amid the record-setting spike in infections, which has led to renewed lockdown measures in some parts of the country, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

The figures were another signal that the nation’s economic rebound from the worst downturn since the Great Depression is slowing down at the start of what health officials fear will be a brutal winter with COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the rise.

“These numbers are showing people’s renewed concern about the resurgent virus,” economist A. Gary Shilling told The Post. “Governments are reluctant to close things up but we’ve learned that when we open up, this virus transmits very quickly.”

Last month was the fifth straight in which job growth slowed after peaking at about 4.8 million in June. Economists were anticipating an addition of 469,000 jobs to the nation’s nonfarm payrolls, according to a Reuters survey, down from October’s revised total of 610,000.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel — US regulators are expected to clear two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use this month, a crucial step toward returning the economy to normal.

But experts say Washington needs to slather another layer of ointment on the wounded economy by approving more federal aid. The virus and its economic fallout will continue to spread in the meantime, according to economists — potentially leading to a net loss of jobs this month.

“The wounds are festering and Congress needs to act,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton and a Federal Reserve adviser, told The Post. “We’ve been arguing that and this just underscores the point because by December we’ll be in the red.”

While a $908 billion stimulus proposal is gaining traction in Congress, key benefits programs created by March’s CARES Act bill are set to expire at the end of the year, putting jobless Americans on the edge of a financial cliff.

“The task at hand is clear,” Curt Long, chief economist and vice president of research at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, told The Post. “Let’s get something done, let’s limit the damage, and when a vaccine’s available we won’t have quite as big a mountain to scale.”

The economy still has 9.8 million fewer jobs than it did in February, before the pandemic drove unemployment up to record levels, the feds said.

The transportation and warehousing industries powered November’s gains, adding 145,000 jobs as shipping giants staffed up for a coronavirus-fueled explosion in online shopping this holiday season. But that came alongside a slowdown in seasonal hiring among retailers, who shed 35,000 jobs as wary consumers stayed out of stores.

Restaurants and bars also lost 17,000 jobs in November after staging a recovery in recent months from the lockdowns that emptied dining rooms in the spring.

Meanwhile, the number of people out of work for at least 27 weeks climbed by 385,000 to 3.9 million, making up more than a third of the nation’s unemployed, the feds said. And the labor force participation rate dropped slightly to 61.5 percent after climbing in October.

“More people are getting discouraged,” Swonk said. “They want to work but they don’t see any work and that again is reflective of the pandemic getting worse.”

Stark disparities also persisted last month. The unemployment rate among black workers sat at 10.3 percent three months after the nationwide rate dropped below the 10 percent mark. And 427,000 fewer women were in the labor force than in August — before many moms reportedly stopped working as kids started remote schooling — compared with a drop of 271,000 for men, the data show.

With Thornton McEnery