Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent in February 2020.
While other economic indicators have fallen in recent months, the labor market has continued to pick up. But job opportunities are changing, workers are seeing modest wage growth and employers are slowing hiring in anticipation of a slowdown in sales.
“Employers are hiring mainly for change rather than growth and expansion, and they’re focusing on essential roles,” said ZipRecruiter economist Julia Pollock. “But when push comes to shove, they still need to hire because they’re still seeing customers walking through the door and healthy sales.”
Ahead of Friday’s report, Wall Street forecasters had forecast 250,000 jobs added in September.
The largest job gains were seen in leisure and hospitality, which added 83,000 jobs in September, one of the few sectors still not back to pre-pandemic levels – a sector still 1.1 million jobs below its February 2020 level. Health care added 60,000 jobs, with strong gains in hospitals and ambulatory health services.
Professional and business services added 46,000 jobs. Temporary help services added 27,000 jobs. Temporary business losses are usually a bellwether for economic downturns.
Manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade continued to see strong growth. Transportation and warehousing, retail, government and mining showed little change. Financial services employment declined slightly.
Nick Banker, director of North American Economic Research for Jobs, said the sluggish job market shouldn’t cause alarm.
“We have to change our expectations,” Bunker said. “The gains earlier this year were astronomical because we were in a huge hole when it came to jobs and now we’re getting something like full employment.”
Concerns about a potential crash have erupted, as has the stock market fell, Inflation has risen And there is the housing market got cold. Nearly two-thirds of economists recently surveyed by consumer financial services firm Bankrate Predicts recession By mid-2024.
Federal Reserve officials have warned that households and the labor market will experience some pain continuously Raise interest rates To control demand and thereby reduce inflation. So far, the labor market has been resilient, but it is too early to see the full effects of the central bank’s monetary policy.
Other indicators suggest the central bank is achieving its goal of softening the labor market without widespread layoffs.
Average hourly earnings continued to rise, but at a slower rate of 0.3 percent this month, to $32.46 an hour. Slower wage growth means lower-wage workers in particular are feeling the pinch of inflation even harder, while employers have been able to attract workers without raising wages.
“To the extent that employers have already raised wages earlier this year, those higher wages are still working to attract workers,” said Elise Gold, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “Wages haven’t fallen, but they haven’t risen at the same rate.”
The labor force participation rate was little changed at 62.1 percent, with economists hoping to see more growth to ease labor shortages.
Employers posted 10.1 million job openings in August, a 10 percent drop from the previous month, the Labor Department reported. Published on Tuesday.
The continued tightening of the labor market has allowed workers to flex their muscles to demand better wages and working conditions. Last week, a three-day strike at San Francisco International Airport cost nearly 1,000 food workers $5 an hour. Meanwhile, Amazon will face a union election next week at a warehouse near Albany, N.Y., which could lead to a second union shop in the e-commerce giant’s vast logistics empire. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
But workers’ wage gains are still being eroded by high inflation, which has disproportionately affected low-income families, who spend much of their income on food and housing, where prices are rising sharply.
Jamika Ruffin, 29, earns $10 an hour as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Detroit, after seven years at the fast-food chain. He got a 25-percent raise in January but said the raise didn’t go far.
“We’re not living on these wages,” Ruffin said. “We’re just surviving. The cost of living has gone up a lot this year.
Ruffin said she couldn’t always pay the phone bill and had to borrow money to pay for her daughter to go on field trips with her school. And at the end of the month, they go to soup kitchens for food.
Recent changes in the labor market have helped some employers.
Jeff Ulmer, owner of Action Hardware in Wilmington, Del., said retail workers are having an easier time hiring after months of struggling to compete with larger employers. High school students can get jobs elsewhere starting at $15 an hour, he said.
“We’ve had good luck lately,” Ulmer said. “The power between the owner and the employees has changed, but it’s starting to go the other way.”
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