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A "Now Hiring" sign outside the Wharf Chocolate Factory, at Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, California

WASHINGTON - U.S. employers added only 235,000 jobs in August, the Labor Department reported Friday, a sign the pace of hiring has slowed considerably at a time when the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has dampened business activity.

"There's no question the delta variant is why today's jobs report isn't stronger. I know people were looking and I was hoping for a higher number," Biden told reporters at the White House. He said he would disclose next week the "next steps" needed to "combat the delta variant."

The report fell far short of economists' expectations of about 750,000 new jobs last month. Last month's 235,000 new jobs were also far fewer than the 943,000 jobs added in July and the 938,000 new hires in June.

The August unemployment rate declined to 5.2% from 5.4% the month before. The 5.2% rate is still higher than before the pandemic started.

"What we are seeing is an economic recovery that is durable and strong. The Biden plan is working. We're getting results," he said. "This report means we have been adding an average of 750,000 per month … during the past three months."

Despite increases in U.S. vaccination rates that have allowed business to loosen pandemic restrictions, the number of job vacancies remain at record high levels.

In all, the U.S. lost about 22 million jobs in the early months of the pandemic and now has recovered 16.7 million of them.

Although millions of new jobs have been created, Biden said in advance of Monday's national Labor Day Holiday that recent polls show higher quality jobs are increasingly in demand.

Now Hiring signs at a temporary post office location inside the former K-mart on Lake Street, Minneapolis Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons

"The holiday we celebrate this weekend … is about honoring the dignity of work, honoring the American worker," he said.

"And that's what our economic strategy is all about as well. It's about growing our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, providing some extra breathing room for families … creating an environment where employers have to compete for workers," the president said.

The size of the economy — nearly $23 trillion — now exceeds its pre-pandemic level as it recovers faster than many economists had predicted during the worst of the business closings more than a year ago.

How fast the growth continues is an open question.

For months, the national government has sent an extra $300 a week in unemployment compensation, on top of state aid, to jobless workers. But that extra assistance is ending throughout the country on Saturday, although Republican governors in 25 states had already terminated it early. About 7.5 million jobless workers will be affected by the cutoff in extra funding.

"As we continue to fight the delta variant, the American Rescue Plan we passed continues to support families, businesses and communities," Biden explained. "Even as some of the benefits that were provided are set to expire next week, states have the option to extend those benefits and the federal resources from the rescue plan to do so."

The national unemployment aid helped many jobless workers pay household bills through the worst of last year's economic downturn during the pandemic, but also put new money into the economy.

Biden called on Congress to act in September "to finish the job of passing my economic agenda so that we can keep up the historic momentum we've been building these last seven months."

(This article is originally written by Ken Bredemeier and Wayne Lee) (VOA/RN)

Keywords: USA, Job gain, August, Shortage


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