U.S. Job Picture Worsens Amid Latest Surge in Coronavirus Cases


Fewer Americans said they were working as the latest wave of the coronavirus infections surge across the U.S., according to data released by the Census Bureau.

Back-to-back Household Pulse Surveys conducted from mid-October to early November showed that the number of employed Americans declined by about 4.5 million. The figures are a possible sign the labor-market rebound may be losing steam amid a Covid-19 resurgence.

Among the jobless, about 4.21 million said they were sick with coronavirus symptoms or caring for someone with symptoms, according to the latest survey released on Wednesday and covering the Oct. 28 to Nov. 9 period. That’s up from 2.95 million between the previous Oct. 14-26 survey period. About 5.71 million were out of work because their employers shut down either temporarily or permanently, compared with 5.35 million in the previous tally. The total number of employed people in the U.S. stands at about 141 million, the survey showed.

The gradual recovery in the labor market is facing headwinds as states return to lockdown measures to control the spread of the virus. The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 11.5 million and the outbreak has killed nearly a quarter million people, according to figures published by John Hopkins University.

At the same time, millions of Americans are feeling a budget squeeze as the pandemic wears on, while hopes are dim that a new round of fiscal stimulus could be achieved anytime soon. About 32% of Americans and nearly half of Black people older than 18 said covering usual expenses during the pandemic had been “somewhat” or “very” difficult, the latest survey found.

While recent developments on coronavirus vaccines give reason for optimism for the long-run economic recovery, the rising infection rates will still have a “significant” downside risk in the near term, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday. The U.S. economy will have a “long way to go” before a full rebound, he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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