U.S. job growth slowed in July after a two-month surge, indicating the labor market has a long road ahead to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labor Department reported Friday that employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, the third-straight month of improvement after the spring lockdown that decimated the labor market.
But job gains were lower than the 2.5 million and 4.8 million added in May and June, respectively. The economy still has recouped only 42% of the jobs lost in March and April.
The unemployment rate fell to 10.2% last month after hitting a peak of nearly 15% in April but economists noted that job gains were disproportionately in the part-time sector. There are also concerns that renewed lockdowns and business closures last month will put a dent in the recovery.
“We’re in a pretty strong rebound,” David Berson, Nationwide chief economist, told The Wall Street Journal. “But the downturn was so big — the hole that was dug was so deep — that it will still take probably at least a couple of years to dig ourselves out.”
Before the coronavirus drove the U.S. into a deep recession this year, the unemployment rate was hovering around a 50-year low of 3.5%. In July, the highest growth was in the hospitality, government, retail, business services and the health care sectors.
Restaurants and retailers, which have taken a particularly hard hit from the pandemic, have brought back about half of the jobs lost but according to MarketWatch, “progress from here on out is likely to be erratic after the latest coronavirus outbreak spurred states to tighten restrictions on business openings and indoor activities.”
The number of total permanent job losses was more or less flat from June at 2.9 million. “Granted still more than double from before the crisis, but we’ll take the one-month reprieve,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor.
But the number of people working part-time rose by 803,000 to 24 million.
“Recovery in jobs to pre-pandemic levels will likely be slow and prolonged, one that will restrain the pace of recovery,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.