The U.S. economy added only 235,000 jobs in August, well below the 720,000 jobs, some economists were predicting.
The unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.4 percent in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
August’s job total was the weakest since January. One bright spot in the report was the wages, which rose 4.3 percent year-over-year.
Although disappointing, the August employment numbers are no reason for panic, one local economist said.
“My first response is that I will take these numbers,” said Robert Kleinhenz, a Long Beach-based economist, and economic consultant. “I’m not as disappointed in them as some people are. We’re still ahead of the recovery from the Great Recession, which was about 175,000 jobs added a month, and we’re not that far from full employment.”
Leisure and hospitality, which helped lead the jobs recovery during the first seven months of the year, stalled in August, with no increase month over month.
Retail lost 29,000 jobs, most of them in food and beverage. Healthcare, which also added jobs during the first half of the year, lost 5,000 jobs in August.
On the positive side, professional and business services led with 74,000 new jobs, followed by transportation and warehousing (53,000), private education (40,000), and manufacturing and “other services,” both of which posted gains of 37,000 jobs.
The report comes at a time when the country is recording about 150,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily, the result of the Delta variant.
“It’s hard to say how much, but the Delta variant is definitely a factor in the loss of jobs,” Kleinhenz said. “Businesses become hesitant when something like this happens, especially about hiring.”