The U.S. economy added a disappointing 245,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department announced Friday, the weakest job growth since the economy started recovering in May from the first wave of coronavirus shutdowns.
Job growth has declined for five months in a row, raising alarms about the waning strength of the recovery and the fate of millions of workers who have lost their jobs in an economy still battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. remains about 10 million jobs short of its peak in February, and 11 million shy of the trend line in place in the pre-Covid economy.
The unemployment rate fell by two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.7% in November, but the decline was driven largely by more than half a million workers leaving the labor force. According to an analysis by Jason Furman, who served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, a more realistic unemployment measure that takes into account those who have dropped out puts the jobless rate at 8.5%.
A worrying trend: The number of people experiencing long-term unemployment has been rising sharply. “The jobs report offers clues that what was once temporary unemployment is becoming more permanent — in ways that, if unchecked, could do long-term damage to millions of families and to the economic potential of the United States,” Neil Irwin of The New York Times wrote.
Since September, the number of people jobless for more than 27 weeks has risen by 1.5 million, and some economists fear that the job market will get worse before it gets better. “The recovery is not insulated from the effects of the pandemic,” Daniel Zhao, an economist at Glassdoor, told the Associated Press. “This is the calm before the storm. We face a long and difficult winter ahead.”
Biden calls for more stimulus: President-elect Joe Biden said the report underscores the need for Congress to provide further stimulus. “This is a grim jobs report. It shows an economy that is stalling. It confirms we remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history,” Biden said in a statement. “The situation requires urgent action. Americans need help and they need it now. I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in the Senate around a $900 billion relief package.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also cited the latest employment numbers as he pushed for a deal. “This jobs report is blaring warning that a double-dip recession is looming and must be a wakeup call for anyone who is standing in the way of true bipartisan emergency relief,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, agreed on the implications of the report: “I think today’s jobs numbers really help” the effort to pass another round of stimulus. “We may disagree about the specifics but there is no doubt the economy needs help.”
The conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the “slumping economy” makes it clear that lawmakers need to reach a deal quickly. “The fire alarm is sounding on our economy and the only question is whether Congress will respond,” a Chamber representative said in a statement. “The time for Congress to move a bipartisan bill is now. The U.S. Chamber strongly urges lawmakers to support bipartisan efforts to enact pandemic relief ...”