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Employers add 531,000 jobs last month as recovery gains steam, unemployment rate falls to 4.6%

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(WASHINGTON) — Hiring gained steam in October, with U.S. employers adding 531,000 jobs and the unemployment rate edging down by a fraction of a percentage point to 4.6%, the Department of Labor said Friday.

Job growth was widespread and beat economists’ expectations — with major gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, and in the transportation and warehousing sectors — the DOL said, indicative of the the post-pandemic recovery rebounding in the labor market after months of disappointing hiring figures. In September, employers added some 312,000 jobs, according to revised figures released Friday.

Employment has increased by 18.2 million since the recent low seen in April 2020, when the pandemic raged, but remains down by some 4.2 million, or 2.8%, from its pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate in February 2020 was at a historic low of 3.5%.

Notable job growth was seen in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality industry last month, which saw some 164,000 jobs added. Employment in this sector is still down by 8.2%, however, compared to February 2020 levels.

Other notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, which added 100,000 jobs in October, including a gain of 41,000 in temporary help services, the DOL said. Manufacturing added 60,000 jobs last month, and the transportation and warehousing sector saw employment increase by 54,000 jobs.

Moreover, the average hourly earnings for all employees last month increased by 11 cents to $30.96. A shortage of workers accepting low-wage jobs in the wake of the pandemic shock has been linked to the rising wages seen in recent months, as many major companies have struggled to hire back staff let go in the early days of the pandemic.

Disparities still lurk in the recovery. The unemployment rate for Black workers last month was nearly double that of white workers at 7.9% compared to 4%. The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers was 5.9% in October, and 4.2% for Asian workers.

Finally, the DOL data indicates some companies are recalling workers back to the office after the vaccine rollout. The DOL said that some 11.6% of employed persons teleworked because of the pandemic last month, down from 13.2% the month prior.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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