American Flags hang at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on September 21. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy added just over 660,000 jobs for the month of September, the Labor Department said in its monthly assessment on Friday -- a good deal fewer than most analysts were expecting.
The department said a total of 661,000 jobs were added for the month and the unemployment rate declined by a half-point to 7.9%.
Most economists had predicted between 800,000 and 875,000 new jobs in a continuing, if slowing, recovery for the domestic labor market.
"These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it," the department said in a statement.
"In September, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in healthcare and social assistance, and in professional and business services. Employment in government declined over the month, mainly in state and local government education."
Friday's report marks the fifth straight month of job gains, but the first time they have fallen below 1 million since May.
Even with the gains, the U.S. economy has not yet come close to recovering the 22 million jobs that were lost in March and April at the onset of COVID-19. In fact, fewer than 11 million of those jobs had returned by August.
Analysts expected the unemployment rate to drop to 8.2% from last month's level of 8.4%. In April, national unemployment reached 14.7%, the highest level since World War II.
A private jobs report by ADP and Moody's Analytics on Wednesday showed the United States added 749,000 jobs in September. Thursday, the Labor Department said 837,000 U.S. workers had filed new unemployment claims.
Earlier this week, the Commerce Department said in its final second-quarter estimate that the U.S. economy declined by a record 31.4% between April and July, a downturn created almost entirely by the health crisis.
Friday's report does not include thousands of new layoffs in the airline industry, which was allowed to begin dismissing employees on Thursday, under the terms of federal aid the airlines received in the spring. Those will be noted in the October report.