By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employment growth slowed more than expected in September and over 300,000 Americans lost their jobs permanently, dealing a potential blow to President Donald Trump ahead of the fiercely contested Nov. 3 presidential election.
The Labor Department’s closely watched employment report on Friday underscored an urgent need for additional fiscal stimulus to aid the economy’s recovery from a recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The slowdown in hiring compounds problems for Trump, who announced overnight that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
Just over half of the 22.2 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been recouped. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, blames the economic turmoil on the White House’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people and infected over 7 million in the nation.
“The jobs report adds to Trump’s woes,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING in New York. “Betting odds signal a diminished chance he will win re-election and a much higher probability of a Democrat clean sweep.”
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 661,000 jobs last month, the smallest gain since the jobs recovery started in May, after advancing 1.489 million in August. Every sector added jobs with the exception of government, which shed 216,000 positions because of the departure of temporary workers hired for the Census and layoffs at state and local government education departments as many school districts shift to online learning.
Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 318,000, accounting for nearly half of the gain in nonfarm employment. Payrolls are 10.7 million below their pre-pandemic level. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 850,000 jobs were created in September. Employment growth peaked in June when payrolls jumped by a record 4.781 million jobs.
(Graphic: Nonfarm payrolls –