US adds 943,000 jobs in July, unemployment rate falls to 5.4%

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) —  America’s employers added 943,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate ticked down to 5.4% as the U.S. economy continues to bounce back with surprising vigor from last year’s coronavirus shutdown.

The report, issued by the Department of Labor on Friday, was the latest sign that the reopening of the economy is propelling a rebound from the pandemic recession. The July numbers exceeded economists’ forecast for more than 860,000 new jobs. Hotels and restaurants, reopening and doing brisk business, added 327,000 jobs last month. Local public schools added 221,000.

The number of people who reported they had jobs skyrocketed by 1 million, pushing the jobless rate down from 5.9% in June.

“Labor market conditions appear to be healthy at the start of third quarter as labor-intensive service businesses continue to hire given strong pent-up demand,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Job gains were flattened by shifts in seasonal employment at schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Estimates ranged from as low as 350,000 to as high 1.6 million.

Prior to the pandemic, education employment normally declined by about 1 million jobs in July as schools closed, but this year many students are in summer school catching up after disruptions caused by the coronavirus. This likely threw off the model or seasonal factors that the government uses to strip out seasonal fluctuations from the data, giving payrolls a boost.

The positive jobs report comes amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases and a shortage of available workers.

Rising COVID-19 infections, driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus pose a risk. While major disruptions to economic activity are not expected, with nearly half of the population fully vaccinated, spiraling cases could keep workers at home and hamper hiring.

A shortage of workers has left employers unable to fill a record 9.2 million job openings. Lack of affordable child care and fears of contracting the coronavirus have been blamed for keeping workers, mostly women, at home. There have also been pandemic-related retirements as well as career changes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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