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Jobs increase by 194,000 in September; unemployment falls to 4.8%

Both measures are improved considerably from the end of the February-April 2020 recession.

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 194,000 in September, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4% to 4.8%. The number of unemployed people fell by 710,000 to 7.7 million. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020).

Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month.

Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers declined by 236,000 to 2.3 million in September but is 953,000 higher than in February 2020. The number of persons on temporary layoff, at 1.1 million, changed little in September. This measure is down considerably from the high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 374,000 above the February 2020 level.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) decreased by 496,000 in September to 2.7 million but is 1.6 million higher than in February 2020, prior to the pandemic. The long-term unemployed accounted for 34.5% of the total unemployed in September.

These data refer to employed people who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last four weeks specifically because of the pandemic. In September, 5 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic—that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last four weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 5.6 million in August.

Among those who reported in September that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 15.5% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the prior month. Of those not in the labor force in September, 1.6 million people were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from August. These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. 

In September, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in professional and business services, in retail trade and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in public education declined over the month. Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 74,000 in September, with continued job growth in arts, entertainment and recreation (+43,000).

Manufacturing employment is down by 353,000 since February 2020. Construction employment rose by 22,000 in September but has shown little net change thus far this year. Employment in construction is 201,000 below its February 2020 level. In September, employment in wholesale trade increased by 17,000, almost entirely in the durable goods component (+16,000). Employment in wholesale trade is down by 159,000 since February 2020.

Mining employment continued to trend up in September (+5,000), reflecting growth in support activities for mining (+4,000). Mining employment has risen by 59,000 since a trough in August 2020 but is 93,000 below a peak in January 2019. 

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