WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, a second straight tepid gain and evidence that the pandemic still has a grip on the economy with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2% in August. Last month’s job gains fell shy of even the modest 336,000 that the economy had added in August and were the fewest since December, when employers actually cut jobs.
The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with confirmed new COVID-19 infections declining, restaurant traffic picking up slightly and consumers willing to spend. But new infections remained high as September began. And employers are still struggling to find workers because many people who lost jobs in the pandemic have yet to start looking again. Supply chain bottlenecks have also worsened, slowing factories, restraining homebuilders and emptying some store shelves.
The proportion of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one — known as labor participation — declined in September from 61.7% to 61.6%, well below the pre-pandemic level of 63.3%, Friday’s report said. Many economists had hoped that the reopening of schools, the expiration of federal unemployment benefits and a quickening pace of vaccinations would have led more to search for jobs. That didn’t happen last month.
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