U.S. Economy Adds 245,000 jobs in November, Falling Short of Expectations

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    U.S. employment gains probably slowed only modestly in November despite a record surge of coronavirus cases that still threatens to limit or even reverse hiring in coming months.

    Friday’s jobs report will show nonfarm employers added 475,000 people to payrolls and the unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 6.8%, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. While those would be the smallest improvements since the rebound began in May — and leave the economy 9.6 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels — the labor market is in better shape than analysts expected it to be a few months ago.

    U.S. unemployment remains above 11 million despite recent hiring

    Forecasters say steady hiring for holiday shipping, easing restrictions on businesses in late October and early November, and strong demand for construction work are likely to deliver a seventh-straight payroll gain. One caveat: payroll figures reflect data through mid-month, meaning jobs lost to subsequent lockdowns won’t show until December or later.

    Even if the first jobs report since Joe Biden won the White House does show solid if cooling momentum, he may face a different reality upon taking office in January. In addition to raging infections, precarious businesses like restaurants face colder weather that’s discouraging outdoor dining, and the federal aid outlook remains uncertain.

    Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week urged Congress to approve additional pandemic aid, warning that the economic crisis isn’t over. Policy makers will likely discuss the jobs report when they convene Dec. 15-16 and consider whether to adjust their bond-buying program to provide more stimulus.

    While vaccine breakthroughs offer new promise, it may be many months before distribution is wide enough to meaningfully boost demand and affect employment, according to Jay Bryson, chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

    “Help is on the way, but it’s still a little bit of a race against time,” he said. “There’s going to be near-term weakness in the economy.”

    On a positive note, filings for state unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in almost two months, though the figures may partly reflect volatility around the Thanksgiving holiday.

    The U.S. saw 4.4 million infections in November, one-third of the nation’s outbreak total. While the surge slowed around the Thanksgiving holiday, millions of gatherings and the busiest air travel days since March may fuel infections that prompt further restrictions and curb hiring. Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest, has ordered its 10 million residents to stay home.

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