The US economy added a record 4.8 million jobs last month as the nation continued an economic rebound that’s now threatened by a surge in coronavirus infections, new data show.
Thursday’s closely watched June jobs report showed a better-than-expected recovery in the labor market as states forged ahead with reopening plans that are now being partly rolled back amid record numbers of COVID-19 cases.
The unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent in June from 13.3 percent in May as lockdowns aimed at controlling the virus continued to ease, the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show. That marked a continued improvement from April’s peak of 14.7 percent
But the data reflect a snapshot of the economy in mid-June, before the virus’s resurgence forced states such as California, Texas and Florida to shutter bars and restaurant dining rooms for a second time. The economy’s path forward will rely on whether the new wave of infections gets under control, according to experts.
“The strength of the recovery will depend on the vigor of job growth in the coming months, which in turn relies on progress on the public health front,” Yelena Shulyatyeva, senior US economist at Bloomberg Economics, said in a commentary. “The longer it takes for the unemployed to get back to work, the slower the economic rebound to the pre-crisis trend will be.”
Also complicating the recovery is the end of two key programs that have shored up the economy during the pandemic. The application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program providing forgivable loans to small business passed this week, though it may be extended to August. And the $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits is due to run out at the end of July.
A separate report released Thursday showed some 1.4 million applications for unemployment benefits last week. The weekly figure from the US Department of Labor has consistently declined since late March but has remained above 1 million for 15 straight weeks — a level that was unthinkable before the pandemic.
“These claims tell us that sizable segments of the economy are still retrenching with workers losing jobs as bankruptcies accelerate and businesses either remain closed or re-close in states suffering rising infection and hospitalization rates,” said Seth Harris, a visiting professor the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs who served as deputy labor secretary in the Obama administration.
With Post wires
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