U.S. employers added more than 940,000 jobs in July, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday, beating analyst expectations and the latest sign the job market may be recovering from steep losses sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 943,000 jobs added last month topped the 850,000 from the previous month, despite a shortage of available workers.
July’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% from 5.9% the month before.
The rollout of coronavirus vaccine encouraged restaurants and other businesses to reopen after being forced to close for months after the pandemic began.
The prospects of a strong monthly jobs report were bolstered Thursday when the Labor Department reported that 385,000 jobless workers filed for compensation, down 14,000 from the revised figure of the week before.
The U.S. said a week ago that its economy advanced 6.5% in the April-to-June period, a slightly faster annualized pace than in the first three months of the year as the country steadily regains its footing from the economic devastation of the coronavirus.
The size of the U.S. economy – nearly $23 trillion – now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago.
But the surging delta variant of the coronavirus is now threatening to impair business activity in some regions of the U.S. and, as a result, analysts say the economy could cool somewhat in coming months.
FILE – Food is served to guests at a restaurant in Manhattan, New York, August 3, 2021.
The second quarter growth was fueled by widespread business reopenings, vaccinations for millions of people and trillions of dollars of government pandemic aid that was sent to all but the wealthiest American families.
The weekly unemployment benefit claims total has tracked unevenly in recent weeks, but overall has fallen by more than 40% since early April, while remaining well above the pre-pandemic levels.
About 9.5 million people remain unemployed in the U.S. and are looking for work. There also are 9.2 million job openings, the government says, although the skill sets of the jobless do not necessarily match the needs of employers.
Some employers are offering new hires cash bonuses to take jobs as the economy rebounds and consumers are willing to spend.
State governors and municipal officials across the U.S. have been ending coronavirus restrictions, in many cases allowing businesses for the first time in a year to completely reopen to customers. That could lead to more hiring of workers.
But the surging delta variant of the coronavirus is posing new problems that could inhibit economic growth. The number of new infections recorded each day has increased by tens of thousands in recent weeks and is still growing, especially in parts of the U.S. where millions of people had, for one reason or another, resisted getting vaccination shots.
The number of new vaccinations had been falling in the U.S. but now is increasing again as more people see others in their communities hospitalized from the virus and their lives endangered.
More than 60% of U.S. adults have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, boosting the economic recovery.
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