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U.S. Economy Adds 1.4 Million Jobs, Unemployment Falls Sharply to 8.4%

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job growth has slowed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though the numbers are in line with expectations. The jobs numbers are down from 1.7 million in July and 4.8 million in June.

The unemployment rate fell sharply to 8.4% from 10.2% despite the slowdown in hiring; the U.S. economy has now recovered about half of the 22 million jobs lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Friday’s report added to evidence that nearly six months after the coronavirus paralyzed the country, the economy is mounting only a fitful recovery. From small businesses to hotels, restaurants, airlines and entertainment venues, a wide spectrum of companies are struggling to survive the loss of customers with confirmed viral cases still high.

After a massive collapse in the spring, growth has been rebounding as states have reopened at least parts of their economies – but the recovery remains far from complete.

Many economists think significant hiring may be hard to sustain because employers are operating under a cloud of uncertainty about the virus. Daily confirmed case counts have fallen from 70,000 in June to about 40,000. The decline has leveled off in the past week and the viral caseload remains higher than it was in May and June.

As a result, activities like restaurant dining and air travel are still far below pre-pandemic levels. Most economists say a meaningful economic recovery will likely be impossible until the coronavirus is brought under control, most likely from the widespread use of a vaccine.

Friday’s jobs data was the second-to-last employment report – for most voters, the most visible barometer of the economy – before Election Day, Nov. 3. President Donald Trump faces the daunting task of seeking re-election in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Yet voters in surveys have generally given him higher marks on the economy than they have on other aspects of his presidency.

The jobs report coincides with growing signs that more companies are making permanent job cuts rather than temporary furloughs. That trend could keep the unemployment rate persistently high. It is typically harder for an unemployed worker to find a new job at a new company or in a new industry than to return to a previous employer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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