In an impressively positive jobs report, United States employers added 943,000 jobs in July. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, signaling the economy is improving. The U.S. Department of Labor reported, “Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in local government education and in professional and business services.”
It appears that the swift rollout of vaccines was one of the largest job-creation plans in modern history. As millions of Americans received their shots, government, state and local officials pulled back on strict requirements. States reopened for business and consumers left their homes and spent money. They traveled, went to sporting events, concerts, hit the gym, raised a glass at their favorite bar, dined out at restaurants and shopped.
In addition to the vaccines, stimulus checks, savings from working at home, eye-popping and record-setting highs in the stock market and blazing-hot real estate prices made people feel more confident. This “wealth effect” led to spending, which helped propel the economy.
With almost everything opening up, jobs have returned. The job market has heated up so much that there is an active war for talent. Employers are advertising a record 9.2 million job openings. Businesses have been raising wages and offering bonuses to attract people. Walmart and Target are providing free college tuition payments for their workers. The hardest-hit sectors, such as hospitality, food services and travel, have soundly rebounded. Even with the positive job growth, the U.S. economy remains roughly 5.7 million jobs down from where it was before the pandemic hit.
Leisure and hospitality employers were the big gainers. About 380,000 jobs were added in the sector, representing over 30% of the total job gains. Education and health services contributed the addition of about 90,000 workers. Professional and business services added 60,000 jobs and transportation 50,000 jobs.
A somewhat-surprising, significant contributor to the July payrolls report came from government jobs, with an emphasis in education. Government payrolls were up by 240,000 last month.
Some experts contend that the jobs numbers could have been even higher. Concerns over Covid-19, issues related to school closures and the inability to find appropriate childcare options, people reconsidering career choices in the wake of the pandemic and enhanced unemployment benefits kept some Americans on the sideline.
A persistent problem is the number of people who have been out of work for a long period of time. According to the Labor Department, “The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) decreased by 560,000 in July to 3.4 million, but is 2.3 million higher than in February 2020. These long-term unemployed accounted for 39.3% of the total unemployed in July. The number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 276,000 to 2.3 million.”
Now, for some not so great news—the data composed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was before the sudden surge in the Delta variant. In recent weeks, there have been a frighteningly large number of cases. This has led to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending people to wear masks indoors, if they are in hot spots.
Consequently, companies became unnerved. A number of businesses, including Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Wells Fargo, are pushing back their return-to-office plans. If the virus keeps spreading, there is the possible chance that the job market could cool down.
Companies may elect to place interviews on hold due to the uncertainty caused by the new outbreak. Similar to what happened during the early days of the pandemic, some organizations may elect to furlough or downsize workers, in a preemptive measure to cut costs in case things take a turn for the worse.