NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – The US economy added 531,000 jobs in October, the Labour Department said on Friday (Nov 5), a sharp rebound from the prior month and a sign that employers are feeling more optimistic as the latest coronavirus surge eases.
Economists polled by Bloomberg had been looking for a gain of 450,000 jobs. The unemployment rate declined to 4.6 per cent, from 4.8 per cent. The October gain was an improvement from the 312,000 positions added in September – a number that was revised upward on Friday.
Hiring has see-sawed this year along with the pandemic, especially in vulnerable sectors like hospitality and retail, where workers must deal face to face with customers. White-collar employees have fared better, since many can work remotely.
Some employers are complaining of a shortage of workers, as many people remain on the sidelines of the job market. In theory, the demand for workers should be drawing more people into the labour force, but the participation rate is nearly 2 percentage points below where it was before the pandemic. Early retirements have been a factor.
Supply chain problems are another headache for employers. Auto manufacturers have been particularly hurt by a shortage of semiconductors, while many companies are dealing with rising prices for raw materials and transportation.
The Commerce Department reported last week that the economy grew 0.5 per cent in the third quarter, compared with 1.6 per cent in the second quarter. Still, there are reasons to be optimistic.
The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it will begin winding down the large-scale bond purchases that have been under way since the pandemic struck, signalling that it considers the economy healthy enough to be weaned from the extra stimulus.
“The labour market is tight,” said Mr Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “Consumers are in good shape, and the willingness to spend is certainly there.”