The U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July and the unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent, providing reassurance that the labor market has kept up some of its post-lockdown momentum.
The numbers were better than anticipated. Economists had forecast an addition of around 1.5 million jobs and a decline in the unemployment rate to 10.6 percent from 11.1 percent last week.
A report on private payrolls from ADP and Moody’s Analytics on Wednesday estimated that businesses increased their workforces by 167,000 million in July. The ADP reports have been wildly off in recent months, apparently unable to correctly anticipate the impact of the reopening of the economy. The initial estimate for estimate June was 2.4 million jobs, which was revised up to 4.3 million. Similarly, the estimate for May initially showed a loss of 2.76 million jobs, and had to be revised up to show a gain of 3 million.
The Trump administration’s aid programs appear to have worked to stave off economic disaster in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Direct relief payments to taxpayers and enhanced unemployment have kept incomes up despite the huge rise in unemployment, which in turn has boosted demand for consumer products. The Paycheck Protection Progam, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses that avoid layoffs, also seems to have supported employment and rehiring.
Those programs, however, have largely run their course. The $600 a week enhancement to unemployment benefits expired a week ago. The Paycheck Protection Program was meant to support employment for just a few months and most of the funds are now exhausted. Negotiations to re-up the programs have stalled on Capitol Hill, although President Donald Trump has said he will use executive orders to maintain federal support for the economy if Congress cannot agree on a plan.