Updated Aug 6, 2021 - Economy

U.S. unemployment rate hits new pandemic-era low

Joe Biden

Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs in July, while the unemployment rate fell from 5.9% to a new pandemic-era low of 5.4%.

Why it matters: It’s the biggest hiring spree in almost a year as the labor market makes strides to a full recovery.

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Context: Economists expected the economy to add around 850,000 jobs, though estimates varied widely from as low as 350,000 to as high as 1.2 million.

  • The government’s jobs survey occurred in mid-July — and therefore doesn’t fully reflect possible effects from the recent surge in COVID-19 infections from the Delta variant. But it shows how quickly the U.S. employment picture can improve.
  • Next month's report will show whether Delta can derail that momentum.

By the numbers:

  • The U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs. Hiring hasn't been this furious since August 2020.
  • The unemployment rate fell a half-point to a new post-pandemic low of 5.4%.
  • Total employment is now 5.7 million jobs below its pre-pandemic level, while unemployment is still quite far from the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%.

Zoom in: Pay continued to jump, with wages rising 4% from this time last year.

  • The leisure and hospitality sector continued to recover. Its 380,000 new jobs accounted for the biggest bulk of job gains — despite concerns about labor shortages.

🥊 In a nutshell: "I've never before seen such a wonderful set of economic data," tweeted Jason Furman, who served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.

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