The US unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in September, the labor department announced on Friday, in the last snapshot of the jobs market ahead of the presidential election.
Unemployment has fallen sharply since hitting a historic record of 14.7% in April after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the US. But the rate is still far higher than the 4.8% when Trump took office in January 2017 and the recent pace of recovery is slowing. The current level marks the worst job loss that any president has faced going into an election based on records going back to the second world war.
Over the month of September, the US added just 661,000 jobs, down from the 1.4m jobs added in August, a month that was boosted by the temporary hiring of 238,000 people to conduct the 2020 census.
About half of the jobs lost in the early months after the coronavirus hit the US have now been recovered. But the recovery in the jobs market has been uneven, disproportionately benefiting white men while young people, women, Latino and black Americans have continued to struggle to make up lost ground.
The unemployment rate for white people was 7% in September, for black people it was 12.1% and for Latinos it was 10.3%. The teenage unemployment rate was 15.9%.
Dedrea Perea of Bernalillo, New Mexico lost her job in telecommunications in August. Her unemployment benefits have been placed on hold because she is still considered employed in order to maintain her health insurance and can’t reach anyone through the state unemployment agency to address her dilemma.
For now, state regulations have placed moratoriums on evictions and utility shut offs, but she is at risk of having her car repossessed and is struggling to cover her back payments on rent and utilities.
“I’ve been donating plasma in order to make small payments to my utilities and my landlord so that I’m not too far behind until I can find a job,” said Perea.
William Rodgers, former chief economist at the US Department of Labor, and one of the US’s most prominent black economists, said the jobs recovery seemed to have hit “a plateau” and continuing restrictions on how businesses operate, fresh outbreaks and the coming flu season could all slow further recovery.
Rodgers, professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, said the current situation would likely hit minorities – and particularly young minorities – hardest.
“This is a two-reality economy,” said Rodgers. “Going into this recession, inequality was, by many measures, at all-time highs. One group has faired OK economically and has worked from home while another has suffered economically, and in terms of health, to a far higher degree.”
But President Donald Trump's announcement on Friday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus pushes that number into the background: Voters may be "weighing news related to the virus a bit more than the economic data right now," Brown said.
The drop in the September jobless rate, reported by the Labor Department on Friday, extends a steep downward trend from the 14.7% registered in April, which was the highest level since the Great Depression.
But other details in the report do not easily fit into Trump's narrative of an economy roaring back to life.
Monthly job gains slowed. Overall, of the 22 million jobs lost since February, the economy has recouped about half.
Jobs fell off a cliff here
"Regaining the other half is going to be a whole lot harder," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.
Notably, some 865,000 women left the labor force last month, the data shows, about four times the number of men. Latinas accounted for more than a third of that decline, the report showed.
Those populations are key to Trump's reelection hopes as well as those of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The mass exit of women from their jobs coincided with the start of the U.S. school year, with many children learning online and at home.
"These numbers are really just what parents have been screaming for months, but in the form of economic data," said Michael Madowitz, an economist at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "I can't imagine this is going to help win voters over."
Friday's report counted more than 12 million Americans among the unemployed, a demographic less likely to show up at the polls than the employed, studies here have consistently shown.
But in the current context, there's a twist: voter turnout among those out of work tends to rise when unemployment overall is high.
Amber Wichowsky, a political science professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin, studied thousands of state and local elections and found that higher unemployment is associated with higher turnout, and Republican incumbents "are more likely (than Democrats) to be punished by bad unemployment numbers."
In the Nov. 3 election, she said, it could well be different: the public health crisis could suppress voting if people are worried about casting ballots in person.
Moreover, it's hard to find a clear pattern linking unemployment rates to turnout in presidential elections, or to the outcome.
Where was unemployment before past elections? here
The jobless rate was nearly as high as it is now when voters picked Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, over Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976, when Carter lost to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan in 1980, and when Democratic Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton ousted Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
It was also nearly as high when Americans reelected Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012.
OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
High-frequency data tracked by Reuters shows shifts worked at a variety of industries increased this past week and were approaching 95% of the levels at the start of the year. Estimates of retail traffic based on cellphone data moved above their March 1 level, before a state of emergency was declared, according to information from Safegraph here
Consumer sentiment in September jumped sharply, though a final read here of the University of Michigan's monthly survey on Friday suggested gains were driven by Democrats, with only small improvements among independents and Republicans.
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell for the week ended Sept. 26 but remained high, the government reported on Thursday, and personal income dropped in August, underscoring the importance of another government rescue package that economists say is needed to keep the recovery from flagging further.
Going into this week the number of new COVID-19 cases had risen for two weeks in a row in 27 of the 50 U.S. states. The course of the virus, Federal Reserve officials and others have repeatedly said, is paramount for the economic outlook.
President Donald Trump on reopening economy: Joe Biden would close down the whole country
I am an economics professor focusing on retirement security and jobs. Post Office and Education Jobs Down, Sadly That Is Exactly Where We Need Employees. Because of the election and school COVID-19 restrictions we need, more than ever, functioning post office and schools. But sadly, education jobs are DOWN by over 571K from last year. Compared to last year, employment in local education is down 7%, just when parents and teachers need more help in remote learning. Watch for long term costs of poor education and mothers dropping out of the labor force.
He said, “Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!”
Hicks, who travelled with the Trump just a few days ago for the first presidential debate of 2020, held in Cleveland, Ohio, has been associated with the Trumps since 2012 and was chosen to be his press secretary in 2015, when he decided to run for president.
Told ‘white lies’ for Trump
Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, Hope Hicks became part of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign when she was only 26 years old, in 2015.
But her association with the Trumps had actually begun in 2012, when she joined public relations company Hiltzik Strategies and began working on accounts related to Donald Trump’s real estate, hospitality and fashion business ventures. She also worked with his daughter Ivanka on expanding her fashion label.
A graduate from the Southern Methodist University in Texas, where she played lacrosse, Hicks maintains a low profile, but is well versed with the intricacies of high-profile public relations and in administrative work. Her father, Paul B. Hicks, was the regional CEO of the Americas for Ogilvy Public Relations and is the executive vice president of communications at the NFL, and her grandfather was vice president and general manager of public relations for Texaco (an oil and gas company). Her maternal grandmother worked in the Department of Transportation, and maternal grandfather was in the Department of Agriculture during Johnson and Nixon’s reigns.
She recalled in an earlier interview, how Trump asked her to be his press secretary when he was contemplating running for president. “Mr. Trump looked at me and said, ‘I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary’.”
Hicks was the communications director for his 2016 presidential campaign and then went on to be the national press secretary for the presidential transition team.
In 2018, Hicks had resigned as White House communications director and joined the private sector, working as Chief Communications Officer at Fox, run by Lachlan Murdoch, son of media honcho Rupert Murdoch. But earlier this year, she returned to the White House as counselor to the president, and now reports to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
During her earlier stint in the White House, she was interviewed for nine hours by a panel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. According to reports she told the panel that she occasionally, but said she had not lied about anything pertaining to Russia.
Hope Hicks tests positive for coronavirus following travel with Trump: Report