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U.S. Economy Underperforms Again; Adds Just 194,000 Jobs in September

In an economic press release last Friday, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics announced, amongst other relevant data, that the economy had added just 194,000 jobs in September. This number falls well short of the 500,000 initially forecast by economists at the end of August and is indicative of a stagnant job market. As Disappointing as this news is, economists and policy-makers left right and center wasted no time before engaging in a volatile debate over why this month’s numbers were so abysmal. 

Despite all the fuss, the gains were enough to cause the unemployment rate to recede by four-tenths of a percentage point, from 5.2 to 4.8 percent, meaning that there are just 7.7 million Americans still jobless. Put in perspective, these numbers are well above their pre-covid levels, yet remain demonstrative of positive economic growth since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the job market.

Chiefly responsible for the gains, lackluster though they may be, were the professional and business domains, according to the same press release, as well as transportation, warehousing and retail trade, all of which point to an uptick in commerce as we continue to emerge from the artificially induced economic winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some on the left side of the aisle, have suggested that the sub-par gains are nothing more than the manifestation of the delta variant in our monthly economic figures, but this assertion seems to ignore the fact that it is not just the fear of infection that may be causing people to stay home, but the policy-based responses of both federal and state governments that can deter people from seeking employment on the job market.

This is seemingly corroborated by the state unemployment statistics, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicate that red states, who have given less credence to the virus’ latest offensive, seem to be outperforming blue states, who have championed restrictive measures to fight the virus. These statistics, albeit from the month of August, show states like Nebraska, Utah and Idaho leading the way, with unemployment rates in the two percent range. While New York and California are ranked 49th and 50th respectively, with jobless rates hovering around seven percent. 

The Whitehouse and the bureaucracy remain adamant that the concerns Americans have about COVID bear primary culpability for the abhorrent job statistics, with Whitehouse Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying, “There’s a range of factors in our assessment. One is people are still fearful of COVID and what it will be like in workplaces and ensuring their own safety.” Regardless of what the Whitehouse thinks, the fact remains that there are a historic number of jobs open as a result of this post-pandemic boom, yet few seem adamant to fill them.