The U.S. saw a surprising and dramatic slowdown in hiring last month.
The Labor Department on Friday reported the economy added just 194,000 jobs in September.. That’s less than half of what economists had been expecting.
The disappointing number could further temper expectations of a swift rebound, still hampered by shortages in workers and raw materials stemming from the health crisis.
The news wasn’t all grim. The unemployment rate dropped nearly a half percentage point to 4.8%. One of the sectors that saw the most hiring: leisure and hospitality. But even that industry added just one-fifth of the gains seen in July, and hiring at restaurants and bars was relatively flat.
Employment in education fell in a month when back-to-school hiring typically occurs. The report said the health crisis has distorted the normal seasonal hiring patterns. But job growth could pick up as infections subside.
What’s more, schools have fully reopened for in-person learning, enabling more people to rejoin the labor force. And the labor squeeze could ease. Federal government-funded unemployment benefits expired last month, and that could push more people to look for work.