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Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added a meager 235,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate fell from 5.4% to 5.2%, the government said Friday.

Why it matters: It's the first jobs report to factor in the extent of the COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant — showing a massive slowdown in the recovery after July's blockbuster jobs report. Economists had expected 725,000 jobs to be added.

The big picture: The pandemic is far from over, and it's still hobbling the American economic recovery. This weak report will dissuade the Federal Reserve from pulling back on the amount of cash it's injecting into the economy every month.

By the numbers: June saw 962,000 new jobs added, and July did even better with 1.05 million. In August, however, the pace of change slowed dramatically, with a gain of just 235,000 jobs — and none at all in the leisure and hospitality industries.

  • The other side: Wage growth was very strong, with earnings rising 0.6% in a single month, or 4.3% on a year-over-year basis. The unemployment rate also continued to decline, hitting a new pandemic-era low of 5.2%.

Between the lines: Each successive wave of COVID-19 does less harm to the economy than the one before.

  • As Harvard's Jason Furman points out, the first wave of the pandemic had a lower death toll than we're seeing right now, but caused some 22 million job losses.
  • This time around, we're still adding jobs, albeit at a slower rate than a month or two ago.

What they're saying: "The most telling number" in the report is the number of people who don't have a job but want one, tweets Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson. That declined sharply, from 6.5 million in July to just 5.7 million in August.

  • In other words: While Delta rages, a lot of Americans have no desire to go out to work.

The bottom line: The recovery won't get back on track until the Delta surge subsides.

Go deeper

Exclusive analysis: Tampa Bay's true unemployment rate

Expand chart
Data: Ludwig Institute; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater metro was among 16 of the 98 most populous areas in the country to actually grow living-wage jobs during the pandemic, according to analysis that purports to measure a more accurate unemployment rate.

Why it matters: When we think about unemployment, we don't often think about the people who are underemployed or don't make a livable wage.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.