Twin employment reports highlight the ongoing anguish in America’s labor market.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. fell slightly to 11.1% in June, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, another 1.4 million workers filed for unemployment insurance last week.
The reports highlight the ongoing anguish in the labor market some three months into the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.
While the June jobs report shows some gains — employment rose by 4.8 million last month — economists have expressed concerns it might not accurately represent the current employment climate.
Seth Harris, the former acting secretary of labor in the Obama administration, told ABC News the June jobs report does not yet take into account the decision by states to pause their reopening plans.
“The important thing to remember is that these numbers, the monthly jobs report numbers, are from several weeks ago so they do not capture the reclosing that is happening in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and other states,” he said. “They also don’t capture the fact that there is continuing layoffs.”
The unemployment rate was 10.1% for Whites, 15.4% for Blacks, 14.% for Hispanics, and 13.8% for Asians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The job gains in June “reflect a partial resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic in April and March, when employment fell by a total of 22.2 million in the 2 months combined,” the BLS said in its release.
Some of the biggest job gains last month occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry (which saw an increase of 2.1 million jobs), the retail industry (an uptick of 740,000 jobs), and the education and health services sector (where jobs rose by 568,000).
Despite these gains, employment in food and drinking services is still down by 3.1 million since February. Manufacturing employment rose by 356,000 last month, but 757,000 sector jobs have been lost since February.
“We are going to have some cognitive dissonance, often people look to the jobs report as an indicator of where we are going, but this jobs report more than anything is going to be a reminder of where we were and where we might have gone,” Harris said. “But now the economy and the pandemic are heading in the opposite direction.”
As states have begun reopening their economies and easing some pandemic restrictions in recent weeks, many have reported startling jumps in COVID-19 cases, Harris noted.
The number of new unemployment filings from the Department of Labor has leveled off since peaking at nearly 7 million in late March. Still, they have been in the millions each week for over three months, shattering historical records. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the record for weekly unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.