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US employers add 245,000 jobs in November as rebound loses steam

The US economy added a meagre 245,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 6.7 per cent, as the labour market lost momentum in the face of the latest surge in coronavirus cases.

The data released on Friday by the US labour department will fuel fears of a sharp slowdown in the world’s largest economy. It comes in the midst of a new push in Congress for a fiscal stimulus package to help small businesses, the unemployed and state and local governments weather the latest wave of infections, after months of stalled negotiations.

The jobs report could also influence the thinking at the Federal Reserve, where officials are debating whether to add monetary support to the economy by making changes to the asset purchase programme.

After losing more than 22.2m jobs at the start of the pandemic, employers started bringing back jobs rapidly in the late spring and summer. But the recovery started to slow in the autumn, with the economy adding back 711,000 jobs in September and 610,000 jobs in October.

Line chart of Hiring has slowed in each of the past five months showing The US jobs recovery loses steam

Economists had expected another month of slower job creation in November, but the dip was far larger than forecast. There are still 9.8m Americans without work compared with February.

Some sectors shed jobs in November. After adding 95,100 positions in October, retailers lost 34,700 jobs. Government lost an additional 99,000 positions, after even bigger job losses the previous two months. In leisure and hospitality, job growth slowed to a trickle, from 270,000 in October to 31,000 last month.

The drop in the unemployment rate from 6.9 per cent to 6.7 per cent would normally be encouraging — but the details were discomforting, since the decline was driven by 400,000 people leaving the labour force. The labour force participation rate fell from 61.7 per cent to 61.5 per cent.

“With Covid cases surging again and policies being put in place to try and slow the spread, hiring has slowed down,” wrote Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska, economists at Jefferies, in a note. “Also, worker availability is a significant limiting factor as well, with many unable to go to work due to Covid concerns or family care obligations.”

US Treasuries sold off following the release. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note climbed 0.04 percentage points to 0.95 per cent. The dollar, as measured against a handful of other currencies, climbed from lows hit earlier in the day to trade marginally higher after the report.

The data left little impact on equity markets. The S&P 500 climbed 0.4 per cent early in the trading session alongside the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite.

Credit: Financial Times

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