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Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added 661,000 jobs in September, while the unemployment rate fell to 7.9% from 8.4%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The final jobs report before the election showed a slowdown in hiring — a sign the labor market is in for a longer road to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Between the lines: It's the smallest gain in payrolls since the labor market began to show signs of recovery in May.

  • Friday's number is below the 800,000 jobs economists expected.

The state of play: The leisure and hospitality sector drove the bulk of September's hiring gains. Government jobs declined by 216,000, due in part to temporary 2020 Census workers being laid off.

  • The report showed workers laid off temporarily declined by 1.5 million last month.
  • Yes, but: The number of permanent job losers edged higher again, a worrying signal that companies are laying off workers for good in the midst of the pandemic — rather than sidelining them temporarily.

What to watch: One reason the unemployment rate declined was Americans leaving the labor force.

  • The labor force participation rate —which counts both people with jobs and those who are actively looking for work — fell 0.3% from August.

The big picture: Stocks reacted little to the release of the payrolls report in early trading, as CNBC notes.

  • They fell after news that President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

Worth noting: This week was among the worst for the labor market in recent history, and none of these losses were factored into the jobs report, since the survey period ended in mid-September.

  • tens of thousands of workers laid off at America’s biggest businesses, including 28,000 workers at Disney theme parks.
  • Airlines are beginning to let go of 32,000 employees, in the absence of additional stimulus from Washington.

The bottom line: The labor market has clawed back roughly half of the 22 million jobs it lost when the pandemic hit. About 10.7 million Americans remain out of work since then.

  • Economists warn it will be years before the labor market fully recovers from the walloping earlier this year — if the jobs come back at all.
  • Brian Rose, an economist at UBS, told Axios he expects at least 5 million Americans will lose jobs permanently because of the pandemic.

Go deeper: The Trump jobs record

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jan 8, 2021 - Podcasts

America’s lethargic labor market

As the pandemic strengthens, America's labor market weakens, based on the latest monthly jobs report that showed a loss of 140,000 nonfarm payrolls.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the numbers, what they really mean and where things head next with Axios business reporters Courtenay Brown and Felix Salmon.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

8 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."