US job growth slows unexpectedly as summer comes to an end

The good news is, the economy continues to add jobs. The bad news is, the recovery is slowing, rather than accelerating.

The good news is, the economy continues to add jobs following brutal losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. The bad news is, the recovery is slowing, rather than accelerating.

The hope headed into this morning was that job growth would top at least 1 million new jobs for the fifth straight month. That's not what the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its new report on the U.S. job market in September.

The final jobs report before the general election shows a gain of just 661,000 jobs for September and the unemployment fell from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the summer the unemployment rate fell from its lockdown spike of 14.7 percent to 8.4 percent by August, but the pace of gains has drastically slowed, pointing toward a protracted period of fragile recovery that could be further imperiled if infection rates worsen.

As we've discussed, the point is not that adding 661,000 jobs is some kind of disaster. It's not. In fact, under normal circumstances, it'd be great news.

But therein lies the point: these aren't normal circumstances. Given the severity of the job losses from the spring, we need to see more robust growth now to climb back to where we were.

For all the talk from Donald Trump and the White House about the economic recovery looking like a "super-V," reality appears to paint a different picture. Indeed, this morning's report added, "In September, the number of permanent job losers increased by 345,000 to 3.8 million," which is obviously not what anyone hoped to see.

What's more, since this is the final monthly jobs report before Election Day, the Republican incumbent won't have good news to point to in the race's final weeks.

This is an economy that could use a boost from Congress and the White House, but at this point, the prospects for a bipartisan deal appear poor.

As for the image above, the chart shows GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush and Trump administrations; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.