Trump claims unemployment rate 'better than expected' despite dismal job figures

Roughly 30 million Americans filing for relief as jobless rate dips below 10 per cent – more than double February's numbers

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 04 September 2020 16:07
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The US unemployment rate fell to 8.4 per cent in August, down from double-digit highs throughout the summer in the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Unemployment dipped below 10 per cent for the first time since the onset of the crisis, when it reached a high of more than 14 per cent in April.

But unemployment is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels of 3.5 per cent in February, while only half of the 22 million jobs lost during the Covid-19 crisis have been recovered, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Roughly 30 million Americans continue to claim unemployment benefits, according to the Department of Labour.

Despite the challenging outlook, Donald Trump hailed Friday's report and latest unemployment rate as "much better than expected".

He said on Twitter: "Great Jobs Numbers! 1.37 Million Jobs Added In August. Unemployment Rate Falls To 8.4% (Wow, much better than expected!). Broke the 10% level faster and deeper than thought possible."

September's report marks the second-to-last jobs report before November's election, as his campaign relies on messaging that the economy was faring well under his administration, blaming China for the virus that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and forced widespread business closures and layoffs.

Hiring spiked in government – with temporary hiring for the 2020 Census – and in retail, hospitality, education and health, mirroring similar gains over the last few months as workers are rehired for jobs lost during the pandemic.

More than 9 million jobs have been recovered since mass layoffs and cuts in the spring, but that accounts for less than half of all job losses from the pandemic.

US employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, with the number of unemployed Americans falling by 2.8 million to 13.6 million.

The number of temporarily laid-off workers by decreased by 3.1 million to 6.2 million, down from a high of 18.1 million in April.

In the final week of August, 881,000 people applied for unemployment, marking the lowest weekly figure since March.

Those claims mask a grim precedence – new claims have never topped 700,000 before the onset of the pandemic.

While the unemployment rate among white Americans has reached 7.3 per cent, it remains stubbornly high for black Americans (13 per cent), Asian Americans (10.7 per cent) and Hispanic Americans (10.5 per cent).

The number of permanent job losses, as opposed to furloughs and temporary cuts, have increased by 534,000 to 3.4 million, a figure that has risen by 2.1 million since February, signalling a longer-term economic recovery and damage felt among workers.

Analysts have stressed that a strengthening US economic recovery, rather than stagnant growth repairing losses over the last few months, will hinge on a coherent coordinated national response to the public health crisis, including widespread availability of vaccines, widespread rapid testing and proven therapeutic treatments.

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