Representing one of the strongest signals of economic recovery, employers added close to a million jobs in July. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows unemployment rates dropping to 5.4%, which is a record low since unemployment spiked due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The leisure and hospitality industries saw the biggest employment gains; they also suffered the biggest losses during the pandemic. Likewise, restaurants and bars accounted for 253,000 of the jobs gained in July.
Education was also a booming industry, contributing 221,000 new jobs in the public sector, as well as 40,000 private-sector jobs. What’s more, teacher shortages are expected to continue.
Average hourly wages also saw a minor increase of 11 cents to $30.54.
In total, 16.7 million jobs have been added since May 2020.
Nevertheless, that still leaves the economy short of the 5.7 million jobs that we had pre-pandemic. The US is currently also still short of 1.7 million jobs since February 2020.
Despite the persistent growth, some experts expressed concern about whether that growth could continue past July given renewed coronavirus concerns in late July and August. Additionally, a lot of companies have started requiring vaccinations and newly imposing or reinstating mask mandates for employees.
The industries that saw the highest growth — hospitality and education — are also the ones most susceptible to another spike in coronavirus cases. As everyone braces for the potential impact of the Delta variant, job gains could be one of the places where that is most sharply expressed.
That said, economists are calling the report unambiguously optimistic as it stands.