US unemployment rate falls to 7.9% in last look at jobs market before elections

Jobless rates have fallen sharply since hitting a record low in April, but the rate is still far higher than the 4.8% when Trump took office

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.”


Dominic Rushe and Michael Sainato

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
US unemployment claims dip below 1m for first time in 21 weeks
Figures show 963,000 people filed for claims last week as pandemic’s devastating impact maintains grip on economy

Dominic Rushe in New York

13, Aug, 2020 @12:38 PM

Article image
US unemployment rises 6.6m in a week as coronavirus takes its toll
Latest figures show 16 million people have now lost their jobs, with layoffs spreading across the economy

Dominic Rushe in New York and Michael Sainato in Florida

09, Apr, 2020 @12:32 PM

Article image
US unemployment declines to 13.3% as economy restores 2.5m jobs in May
Latest tally follows the loss of 20m jobs in April when unemployment hit 14.7%, as US economy continues to reel from impact of Covid-19

Dominic Rushe in New York

05, Jun, 2020 @12:47 PM

Article image
Another 1.18m Americans file for unemployment as benefits expire
Economists worry expiration of $600 weekly lifeline will lead to sharp drop-off in household spending and set back the economy

Dominic Rushe in New York

06, Aug, 2020 @12:32 PM

Article image
US adds 261,000 jobs in October as unemployment rate rises slightly
Final jobs report before midterms shows jobless rate at 3.7%, a day after Federal Reserve announced further interest rate hike

Dominic Rushe in New York

04, Nov, 2022 @12:33 PM

Article image
US jobs report: economy added 151,000 jobs in August, fewer than expected
Unemployment rate remains steady at 4.9% but numbers likely to fuel speculation Fed will delay any rise in interest rates

Jana Kasperkevic in New York and Katie Allen

02, Sep, 2016 @12:31 PM

Article image
US economy suffers worst quarter since the second world war as GDP shrinks by 32.9%
Drop in quarterly gross domestic product comes as 1.43m people file for unemployment benefits, a second week of increases, amid Covid-19 pandemic

Dominic Rushe

30, Jul, 2020 @12:32 PM

Article image
US unemployment claims rise by 1.5 million as pandemic pain continues
Pace of US layoffs has slowed sharply since their peak in April, but still remain historically high

Dominic Rushe in New York

18, Jun, 2020 @12:40 PM

Article image
Coronavirus batters US economy as 6.65m file for unemployment last week
US sees second major unemployment rise as millions working in retail, restaurants, and travel lose jobs

Dominic Rushe and Lauren Aratani in New York

02, Apr, 2020 @12:52 PM

Article image
US economy adds paltry 38,000 jobs in May for weakest growth since 2010
Total falls 122,000 short of economists’ expectations ahead of crucial Federal Reserve meeting, but unemployment rate dips to 4.7%

Jana Kasperkevic in New York

03, Jun, 2016 @12:40 PM