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Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

Here's the good news for workers: The unemployment rate fell by a full percentage point to 6.9% last month — in the face of rising coronavirus cases, continued pressure on businesses, and no economic relief in sight from the government.

The bad news: That rapid snapback in employment after initial economic lockdowns eased is over. Job growth has slowed every month since June.

Between the lines: The labor market is still 10 million jobs short of where it was before Covid-19 wrecked the economy.

  • What they're saying: "We need bigger than this, and for many months, just to get out of the hole that we're in," Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, told CNBC this morning.

The dynamic at play: “There’s fewer jobs for people to go back to at the same time we have a lot more people unemployed,” Eliza Forsythe, an economics professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, tells Axios.

By the numbers: The number of long-term unemployed (out of a job for over 6 months) rose by 1.2 million to 3.6 million — a troubling sign because the longer you're out of work, the more difficult it is to get a job.

  • "That holds down the whole economy," Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Thursday.
  • But, but, but: The number of people who said they couldn't look for work because of Covid-19 fell last month to 3.6 million from 4.5 million.
  • Plus: Workers came back into the labor force last month, reversing the trend of people giving up looking for work in September.

What to watch: With Joe Biden edging closer to a win in the presidential race, he could be inheriting a labor market that's improving but desperately needs support.

  • There's need to pass a new stimulus package through what is shaping up to be a divided Congress, with prospects that the economy and job market might get worse in the interim.
  • The desperation for state and local government aid is right there in the numbers: They're shedding thousands of jobs. That held down the overall payroll gain.

The bottom line: The U.S. labor market is recovering better than anybody had dared to hope in the face of a deadly pandemic infecting 100,000 new people every day.

  • But it’s still far from healthy, and will only get there once the coronavirus is brought under control.

Go deeper

Petition backed by Howard Schultz urges Congress to pass small business aid

The Small Business Recovery Initiative, a group backed by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, released a video on Tuesday featuring struggling small business owners urging viewers to sign a petition that calls on Congress to pass COVID relief.

Why it matters: Recent data increasingly shows the economic recovery is floundering, as coronavirus cases surge and states tighten up restrictions ahead of what is likely to be a grim winter for many families and small businesses. Many of the economic safety nets that vulnerable Americans rely on are set to expire in December.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Dec 1, 2020 - Economy & Business

How remote work affected the world's economic health

Data: Institute for Business in the Global Context at Tufts University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While countries with larger shares of their populations able to work remotely have generally fared better economically throughout the pandemic, there are clear outliers.

The big picture: A smooth transition to telecommuting is just one part of pandemic-era economic health. Factors like infection rates and lockdown measures have had massive impacts as well.

3 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”