The U.S. gained 1.8 million jobs in July as rising coronavirus cases across much of the country hindered the economic rebound from the first wave of the pandemic, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent in July from 11.1 percent in June, according to the July jobs report, as the pace of the labor market recovery slowed due to surging cases and fading fiscal stimulus. But July’s gains were far less than the the increases of 4.8 million in June and 2.7 million in May, leaving 10.6 million people who lost their jobs during the onset of the pandemic still searching for work.
While the pace of recovery slowed in July, the report still showed areas of marked progress toward recovering.
Roughly 1.3 million fewer people reported being temporarily unemployed in July, reflecting the ongoing return of workers laid-off and furloughed during the first wave of the pandemic. Permanent job losses also stayed largely flat at 2.9 million and 658,000 fewer workers were forced to work part-time because of the economic conditions facing their employers
The July jobs report follows weeks of mixed signals about the state of the economy and concern among economists about the viability of the burgeoning recovery from a record-breaking downturn. Economists had projected a gain of roughly 750,000 to 1.5 million jobs in July, far less than the millions added in May and June, but acknowledged a wide range of possibilities — including job losses.
The report also comes as the White House and congressional leaders struggle to strike a bipartisan deal on another round of economic rescue and stimulus measures. Democrats and Republicans have failed for weeks to find a way to renew the enhanced unemployment benefits, direct stimulus checks, eviction protections, and funding for local governments first enacted in late March.
A three-hour Thursday night meeting among the top White House and congressional negotiators yielded nothing more than finger-pointing over the substantial differences between Democrats and Republicans. President Trump has warned that the White House will walk away from negotiations without a deal by Friday and would pursue executive orders to extend enhanced unemployment benefits and eviction and foreclosure protections instead.
The failure to craft another major fiscal response to the pandemic-driven recession could force millions of Americans into financial peril and seriously impede the broader recovery, economists warn. Liberal and conservative economists alike have warned of catastrophic human and economic consequences without further support for unemployed workers.
“Many of those people are going to find it hard,” said Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, in a press conference last week. “They are going to need support if they’re to be able to pay their bills, to continue spending money” and remain in their homes.
Powell, a debt hawk Republican that called for deep cuts before the pandemic, is among several right-leaning policymakers to call for ambitious fiscal support from Congress. While his warnings have resonated with some Republican lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned that roughly 20 GOP senators will vote against any new stimulus measure over concerns of its impact on the debt.
While Powell and other debt conscious Republicans acknowledge the need to curb U.S. debt, they’ve insisted that it’s crucial to spend as much as necessary now to foster a strong recovery and tackle long-term spending issues after the crisis.
“In a broad sense, it’s been well spent. It’s kept people in their homes, it’s kept businesses in businesses,” Powell said last week.
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