December 5, 2020

U.S. Job Market Slowed Further in November

[The New York Times]

U.S. employers added 245,000 jobs in November, a fifth month of tapering, amid a coronavirus surge.

The American economic recovery continues to slow, stranding millions who have yet to find a new job after being thrown out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest evidence came Friday when the Labor Department reported that employers added 245,000 jobs in November, the fifth month in a row that the pace of hiring has tapered off. The figure for October was revised downward to 610,000, from the initially stated 638,000.

The unemployment rate in November was 6.7 percent, down from the previous month’s rate of 6.9 percent. But that figure does not fully capture the extent of the joblessness because it doesn’t include people who have dropped out of the labor force and are not actively searching for work.

November’s job totals were dragged down in part by the loss of 93,000 temporary census workers who are no longer needed now that the official counting has wound down.

More than half those knocked out of a job early in the pandemic have been rehired, but there are still roughly 10 million fewer jobs than there were in February. Many people in that group are weeks away from losing their unemployment benefits, as the emergency assistance approved by Congress last spring is set to expire at the end of the year.

“We’re in an unusual position right now in the economy,” said Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at the accounting firm Evercore ISI. “Far off in the distance there is sunlight” because of progress on a vaccine, he said, but until then, “we’re going to have a few of the toughest months of this pandemic, and there will be a lot of scars left to heal.”

Covid-19 caseloads have doubled in the past month, leading to new restrictions and tamping down shopping and other commerce. In much of the country, colder weather is likely to discourage outdoor dining, which many restaurants have depended on. And Congress has been unable to agree on a new spending package to help struggling businesses and households.

— Patricia Cohen

The U.S. Education Department extends student loan forbearance through January.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the forbearance extension on Friday. The relief does not apply to private loans.Credit…Matt York/Associated Press

Millions of federal student loan borrowers will continue to have a reprieve on their loans through Jan. 31, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Friday, extending a pandemic relief measure that had been set to expire at the end of the month.

The extension avoids what borrowers — and the loan servicers that handle their accounts — feared would be a messy disruption between the end of President Trump’s administration and the start of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s term.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has proposed new loan forgiveness programs for federal student debt.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Mr. Biden has not said if he intends to extend the student loan moratorium, but he has called for limited student-debt cancellation and other relief efforts. The announcement means the moratorium, which has been in place since March, can be extended during the Biden administration with no interruption.

An empty playground on Thursday outside a school in the Bronx.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

As of Sept. 30, 23 million borrowers had taken advantage of the relief option, suspending payments on $927 billion in debt, according to Education Department data.

The moratorium allows borrowers to skip payments on their federal student loans without penalty and without incurring interest. For those who opt to keep making payments, the entire amount goes toward their loan principal.

The measure covers only federal loans that are owned by the Education Department, which holds the vast majority of all student loans. Borrowers with private loans still need to make those payments.

The moratorium on payments extends to those who have defaulted on their federal loans and are having their wages garnished. Employers have been told to stop garnishing paychecks, Ms. DeVos said, and those who have had money garnished are due refunds.

“The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges for many students and borrowers, and this temporary pause in payments will help those who have been impacted,” Ms. DeVos said in her announcement. “The added time also allows Congress to do its job and determine what measures it believes are necessary and appropriate.”

— Stacy Cowley

As joblessness remains high, here are the groups being hit hardest.

Distress can be found in nearly every corner of the labor market, but the pain is not evenly distributed.

Joblessness among minority groups was significantly higher in November than the 5.9 percent rate for whites: 10.3 percent of Blacks, 8.4 percent of Hispanics and 6.7 percent of Asians were unemployed.

The jobless rate for women edged down to 6.1 percent from 6.5 percent in October, but a chunk of that decline is because women, much more than men, have taken on family burdens caused by remote schooling and closed child care centers.

Female and Black workers fill a disproportionate share of service sector roles as well as government jobs, which have shrunk significantly since February. In November alone, 21,000 local education jobs were lost.

The pandemic has caused radical changes in the economy and the labor market in a short time. Large sectors of the economy like hospitality, travel and entertainment are floundering, while there have been spurts of growth in others like shipping, technology and cybersecurity that support work and shopping from home.

“The damage is uneven,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the job site Indeed. As is the case with most downturns, he said, there are “widening racial and ethnic gaps and more pain for people with less education.”

In other ways, he said, the damage to the labor market is different than in the past, with the loss of so many service jobs hitting bigger cities more.

— Patricia Cohen

Biden, speaking after jobs report, urges officials to ‘act and act now’ on a relief deal.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. thanked senators who are trying to negotiate a $908 billion compromise package.Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. renewed his calls on Friday for Congress and President Trump “to act and act now” to boost the sagging economic recovery, while expressing confidence that further economic pain will bring lawmakers back to the negotiating table for an additional round of aid after he takes office in January.

Speaking in Delaware, Mr. Biden thanked the Republican and Democratic senators who are attempting to negotiate a $908 billion compromise package during the lame-duck session, saying, “This situation is urgent. If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak.” His statement followed the bleak jobs report for November, which showed U.S. hiring tapering off.

He urged lawmakers to come back for another wave of assistance after Inauguration Day, in part to help hasten the deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“To truly end this crisis, Congress is going to need to fund more testing as well as a more equitable and free distribution of the vaccine,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to need more economic relief to bridge through 2021 until this pandemic and economic crisis are over.”

Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Mr. Biden avoided answering whether he has spoken with Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the majority leader, about negotiations over an aid package. But he said he believed that Republicans would see a need to work with his administration to pass another package this winter, because, he said, “the country’s going to be in dire, dire, dire straits if they don’t.”

Republicans, he said, are “going to find that there’s an overwhelming need as these numbers skyrocket.”

— Jim Tankersley

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