The Labor Department announced Friday that the U.S. added just 235,000 new jobs in August — a strikingly low figure compared to what experts projected for growth last month.
According to national media reports, economists at Dow Jones had projected 720,000 new hires in the month of August, but the reality has federal officials thinking the low total could be a sign that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis still has a grip on hiring.
“There’s no question that the Delta variant is why today’s job report isn’t stronger,” President Joe Biden said at the White House on Friday. “I know people were looking, and I was hoping, for a higher number.”
According to the report, the unemployment rate now stands at 5.2%, slightly down from July’s rate of 5.4%. August’s numbers are the lowest since January when the U.S. reported an addition of 233,000 jobs amid a winter surge of COVID-19 cases.
In August, professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, private education and manufacturing saw “notable” gains, according to the report.
Employment in professional and business services increased by 74,000 jobs in August, clocking the highest industry growth last month. The transportation and warehousing industry added 53,000 jobs last month, followed by the addition of 41,000 jobs in private education. Manufacturing added 37,000 jobs last month.
Employment in retail trade dropped by 29,000 in August, with the highest losses recorded in food and beverage stores.
The release of the report shows the urgency of getting more Americans vaccinated, Mr. Biden said Friday. He said the U.S. needs to “make more progress in fighting the delta variant,” promising he would lay out new steps next week to combat the virus.
“Even with the progress we’ve made, we’re not where we need to be in our economic recovery,” the president said.