Aug 6, 2020 - Economy

July's jobs report could be an inflection point for the coronavirus recovery

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Even if Friday's jobs report shows a big number, it is becoming clear hiring slowed and likely even reversed course in July and real-time indicators suggest the employment situation worsened into August.

Driving the news: Payroll processor ADP's monthly jobs report showed private companies added 167,000 jobs last month, well below the 1.2 million expected by economists and far below June's 4.8 million jobs added.

Why it matters: "We believe the labor market reached an inflection point in July, starting what will likely be a slower phase of recovery," economists at Nomura wrote in a Wednesday note to clients following the release of the ADP survey.

Where it stands: Additionally, new data shows that workers who lost their jobs and were brought back in May and June are again being laid off or warned they soon could be.

  • A survey by Cornell University and analytics firm RIWI released Tuesday found 31% of returning workers reported being laid off a second time, and another 26% say their employer warned them they may be laid off again.
  • While "57% of those initially laid off/furloughed reported being put back on payroll sometime after their initial dismissal, 39% of such respondents say they were put back on payroll yet were not asked to return to actual work."

The intrigue: That survey's findings support the thesis that jobs gains and the decline in unemployment seen in the May and June did not reflect workers "getting back to the business of actually working — but were rather being 're-payrolled,' in many instances in order to meet the loan forgiveness requirements of the PPP," Cornell researchers note.

What to watch: Reports of Americans facing layoffs and furloughs "were surprisingly higher for workers in states that have not been experiencing recent COVID-19 surges, relative to those in surging states," the survey found.

The big picture: Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs, says that the latest data from the Axios-Ipsos poll show...

  • "Only about half of the U.S. workforce is back to work under their normal circumstances."
  • "People working from home has come down only slightly from the peak, suggesting few white collar workers are going back to the workplace."
  • "While the number of people ‘let go’ have declined, the number of people ‘not working’ or out of the labor force has remained high suggesting this recession is shrinking the labor force."
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