Correspondent in New York
After two months of disappointing data, the labor market has delivered good news for the US economy: 531,000 jobs were added last month, in a promising rebound. The employment data was above the expectations of analysts, who predicted a 450,000 job gain, and reduces unemployment a little more, which falls from 4.8% to 4.6%.
The labor market of the world’s leading power has yet to recover close to four million workers compared to February 2020 levels, just before the pandemic started. But the October numbers indicate that US workers are embarking on a resolute return to the market, after the recovery derailed by several factors: the fear of contagion from Covid-19 left many people at home or promoted early retirements, Classroom closures and problems finding childcare forced many people – especially women – to stay at home and the injection of unemployment benefits – the federal ones lasted until last September – made it unnecessary for some go back to look for work.
All these circumstances have begun to change in October: the worst of the Delta variant, which returned the country to levels of infections and hospitalizations similar to those of last winter, has already passed; the vast majority of students have returned to school and contagion disorders are minor; employers have raised wages after experiencing a labor shortage; and with fewer subsidies, savings begin to run out.
This Thursday, the weekly number of applications for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic: 269,000. With this, it is already at levels similar to the 2019 average and well below what it was at the beginning of this year, when they reached 800,000.
Economists believe that the labor market will still take a while to recover all that was lost from the pandemic, especially as childcare will continue to be a challenge, especially for women. We will also have to see the effects of the rising supply chain problems. But the improvement in the pandemic situation and the arrival of the end-of-year holiday season – from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve – is expected to boost Americans’ return to work.