The U.S. may have added about 1.2 million new jobs last month, based on the estimate of economists surveyed by MarketWatch. That would mark a sizable drop from 1.76 million in July and 4.8 million in June. Yet Wall Street scuttlebutt suggests hiring could end up being significantly weaker.
Large payroll processor ADP said less than a half-million private-sector jobs were created last month, for one thing. And several surveys of large and small businesses by the Institute for Supply Management and Homebase have pointed to just a small improvement in hiring in August.
On the flip side, the ADP report has not proven to be an especially good bellwether lately for the official U.S. employment report. Ditto for the ISM surveys. Even if job gains top 1 million, the number could be inflated by a large number of temporary Census workers. The government hired almost 250,000 Census takers last month.
The official jobless rate is seen ticking down to 9.8% from 10.2%, but it’s probably not that low. Several million Americans dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for work after the pandemic struck. They aren’t counted as unemployed. A broader measure of unemployment that includes discouraged jobseekers or those who can only find part-time work stood at 16.5% in July and probably gives a more realistic picture of the damage done to the labor market by the coronavirus.
A record 164.6 million people were part of the labor force shortly before the viral outbreak, but more than 8 million Americans dropped out in the first two months of the pandemic.