The pace of hiring stayed hot in July, with employers adding the most jobs in nearly a year and the unemployment rate falling to its lowest level of the pandemic era.
The U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs last month, more than most economists expected, seasonally adjusted government data released Friday showed. The monthly growth in July was the largest since 1.6 million people were added to payrolls last August, and continues a rapid pickup in the pace of hiring over the last three months. With more people finding jobs, the unemployment rate fell to 5.4%—the lowest since March 2020—from 5.9% in June.
Most of the gains once again were in leisure and hospitality jobs, with 380,000 people added to payrolls in July. It was the fourth straight month the industry has gained at least 300,000 jobs, as consumer demand for experiences outside the house swelled amid fewer pandemic restrictions. Local public schools added an additional 221,000 jobs to July’s total. Every industry, except retail and utilities, gained jobs last month.
The number of people on payrolls is now 5.7 million below where it was in February 2020, before lockdowns ordered by public health authorities caused the economy to shed 22.4 million jobs in a matter of months. After an initial burst of hiring last summer, the job market had mostly settled into gradual improvement this year, adding at least 200,000 jobs every month in 2021. July’s growth—coupled with an upward revision to June’s number—marks an acceleration in the pace of the recovery, with the job market on track to hit pre-pandemic levels next February at the current rate.
That progress, however, could be undone if the increase of virus cases from the delta variant winds up affecting the economy, economists said.
“While payroll gains accelerated in July as the labor market made steady progress toward a recovery, today’s report is a last look at the labor market before the impact of the delta variant is fully felt,” Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao wrote in a commentary Friday.
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