September 03, 2021

☕️ Good morning. Axios' Felix Salmon here with what you need to know about the August jobs report ahead of Labor Day weekend.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 379 words ... 1½ minutes.

1 big thing: Delta strikes

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy was growing at a gangbusters rate — and then the Delta variant came along, slowing things down substantially.

  • That's the message from the hugely disappointing jobs report that came out this morning.

Why it matters: The pandemic is far from over, and it's still hobbling the American economic recovery.

The big picture: 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.

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: The Federal Reserve was watching this report closely to see whether the economy would prove resilient enough that it could take its foot off the accelerator, in a process known as tapering. The August jobs number now makes any tapering this year much less likely.

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.

☕ Thanks for reading and see you next month. For more business and finance news, sign up for our daily newsletters: Axios Markets (mornings) and Axios Closer (evenings).