A restaurant worker cleaned tables in Detroit earlier this month. Labor force participation seems to be stagnating well below its pre-pandemic levels.

Live Economy Updates: U.S. Job Market Slowed in November

Live Economy Updates: U.S. Job Market Slowed in November

Live Economy Updates: U.S. Job Market Slowed in November

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.

Unemployment rate

By Ella Koeze·Unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.”

The number of people who have been unemployed long-term is still rising

Share of unemployed who have been out of work 27 weeks or longer

By Ella Koeze·Data is seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

A restaurant worker cleaned tables in Detroit earlier this month. Labor force participation seems to be stagnating well below its pre-pandemic levels.
Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York Times

The share of Americans either working or looking for a job — a figure known as labor force participation — fell in November and remains far below levels seen before the pandemic, a sign that the recovery remains incomplete as 2020 nears its end.

The labor force participation rate declined to 61.5 percent last month, down from 61.7 percent in October. In February, before pandemic-tied layoffs started, the figure stood at 63.4 percent.

For workers in their prime working years, defined as 25 to 54, participation is now at 80.9 percent, down from 81.2 percent in October and 83 percent in February.

That labor force participation seems to be stagnating well below its pre-pandemic levels is a cause for concern. In the wake of the 2007-9 recession, labor force attachment for people in their prime working years remained depressed for years, serving as a sort of “shadow” source of would-be workers even as the unemployment rate declined.

It is unclear whether that dynamic will repeat itself following this downturn, which has been very different.

But as the pandemic drags on, workers are again finding themselves on the labor market’s sidelines. That has been especially true for prime-working-age women, who are disproportionately employed in service jobs most affected by efforts to contain the spread of infection and who have been more likely to drop out of the labor market because of family care responsibilities. That has mattered as schools fully or partly close, leaving children at home.

Federal Reserve officials and other economic policymakers are watching figures like labor force participation — and how they are playing out across different demographic groups — as they take stock of the recovery.

“The economic dislocation has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, told lawmakers in testimony this week, adding that “we will not lose sight of the millions of Americans who remain out of work.”

Unemployment is falling across demographics

Unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic, Asian and white workers

Unemployment rates for men and women

By Ella Koeze·Rates are seasonally adjusted except those for Asian men and women.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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.

As the coronavirus pandemic keeps shoppers out of stores and employees working from home, it’s no surprise that some of November’s biggest gains in hiring were in transportation, warehouse and health care jobs.

Employers also continued hiring people in the business and professional services sector.

Becky Frankiewicz, president of the staffing and placement company ManpowerGroup North America, said she had seen signs of energy in the labor market, noting that a survey of all publicly posted jobs showed 11 million openings in November, a million more than the previous month.

Job gains were unevenly spread across industries in November

Cumulative change in jobs since before the pandemic, by industry

By Ella Koeze·Data is seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

“We continue to see week-over-week job growth,” Ms. Frankiewicz said. “We’re nowhere near where we were, yet we continue to limp ahead with recovery.”

There is seasonal hiring, she said, but the composition is different than in previous years. Instead of adding in-store retail staff to work cash registers, sales floors and call centers, employers are scooping up people to work in warehouses and to handle customer service calls from home.

Nick Bunker, an economist at the job search site Indeed, said that since the summer, the story had been the same. “While the trend in jobs postings has continued to pick up, the pace of improvement is slower than it was,” he said.

“The trend in postings about 12 percent below where it was last year,” Mr. Bunker said. “It’s much better than at the nadir of the labor market, but labor demand doesn’t seem to be anywhere near back.”

America’s unemployed workers — a large group nine months into the coronavirus pandemic — increasingly report that they have lost work permanently, rather than temporarily.

Job losses are increasingly likely to be permanent

Share of jobs lost each month that are temporary layoffs

By Ella Koeze·Data is seasonally adjusted.·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The share of jobless workers reporting that they are on temporary layoff has dropped in recent months, a trend that continued in November. But as that happens, an increasing portion have said that their layoffs are not expected to be temporary — 44.2 percent in November, up from 40.9 percent in October, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

The report showed that 25.9 percent of the unemployed in November were on temporary layoff, while others had left their jobs or were entering or re-entering the job market.

To be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, a person must have a return date or expect to be recalled to their job within six months. Because of the uncertainty tied to the pandemic, people who did not know whether they would be recalled have been counted by the bureau as on temporary layoff.

The danger that the pandemic will inflict lasting damage on the labor market is increasing as millions remain out of work, and as their unemployment appears likely to last until they can find new positions. Spells of joblessness can hurt workers’ résumés and can discourage some applicants, causing them to drop out of the search altogether.

If that happens because of the coronavirus-induced recession, it would probably unevenly hurt Black and Hispanic workers and those with lower education levels. Those groups have suffered heavy job losses as many of the shops, restaurants and other service businesses that disproportionately employ them have closed.

Economic officials have been urging Congress to provide additional economic support to cushion the blow. Several emergency programs, like forgivable small-business loans and expanded unemployment insurance, are about to end or already have.

“Additional fiscal support is essential to bridge past Covid’s second wave in order to avoid labor market scarring, reductions in crucial state and local services, and bankruptcies,” Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, said in a speech this week.

Microsoft is one of the major companies that has pledged to adopt skills-based hiring for many jobs, often dropping a college degree requirement.
Credit…Stuart Isett for The New York Times

As many as 30 million American workers without four-year college degrees have the skills to realistically move into new jobs that pay on average 70 percent more than their current ones. That estimate comes from a collaboration of academic, nonprofit and corporate researchers who mined data on occupations and skills, The New York Times’s Steve Lohr reports.

The findings point to the potential of upward mobility for millions of Americans, who might be able to climb from low-wage jobs to middle-income occupations or higher.

But the research also shows the challenge that the workers face: They currently experience less income mobility than those holding a college degree, which is routinely regarded as a measure of skills. That widely shared assumption, the researchers say, is deeply flawed.

“We need to rethink who is skilled, and how skills are measured and evaluated,” said Peter Q. Blair, a labor economist at Harvard, who was a member of the research team.

The researchers published a broad look at the jobs, wages and skills of workers who have a high school diploma but not a four-year college degree as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper this year. For skills, the researchers used Labor Department classifications. They defined low-wage jobs as those paying less than the nation’s median annual salary of $38,000. Middle-wage occupations were those paying from $38,000 to $77,000, with the midpoint of $57,500. High-wage jobs paid more than $77,000.

The highest-paid workers without college degrees were in computer, technical and management jobs. The lowest-paid were clustered in personal care and food preparation jobs.

Credit…Octavio Jones for The New York Times

The Cheesecake Factory misled public investors about its financial situation in the spring, as the coronavirus began to spread and officials imposed restrictions on in-person gatherings, regulators said on Friday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission fined the company $125,000 over the matter. It’s a relatively small penalty, but the Cheesecake Factory — famous for its enormous menu, including more than 30 types of cheesecake — is the first to be penalized over its disclosures during the pandemic.

In regulatory filings on March 23 and April 3, the Cheesecake Factory told investors that its restaurants were “operating sustainably.” In fact, the 294-restaurant chain was losing about $6 million per week and, by its own internal estimates, had only about 16 weeks’ worth of cash left.

And while the company described steps it was taking to cope with the pandemic in its March filing — including borrowing $90 million from a corporate credit line — it did not disclose that it told landlords that it would not pay April rent because of the pandemic.

The S.E.C. said that the company disclosed more accurate information with private equity firms and other lenders that it was negotiating with for a financial lifeline. The regulator said the Cheesecake Factory agreed to settle the charges, without admitting guilt, and had cooperated with the investigation.

“When public companies describe for investors the impact of Covid-19 on their business, they must speak accurately,” Stephanie Avakian, the director of the commission’s enforcement division, said in a statement.

On April 20, the Cheesecake Factory announced a $200 million investment from the private equity firm Roark Capital. The company’s chief executive, David Overton, said at the time that the deal “meaningfully” enhanced the company’s liquidity “to navigate the near-term Covid-19 landscape.”

A representative for the Cheesecake Factory referred to a regulatory filing from the company on Friday acknowledging the settlement.

A courier in San Francisco for DoorDash.
Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

The food-delivery company DoorDash raised expectations for its initial public offering on Friday, increasing its hoped-for valuation to a new high of $35.3 billion.

In an amended prospectus, DoorDash said it had increased the expected price range for its shares to $90 to $95 each, up from $75 to $85 earlier this week. At the top end of the new range, the company would raise about $3.1 billion in the sale.

DoorDash is one of a number of start-ups to pursue an I.P.O. this year, banking on buoyant stock markets and investor demand for high-growth companies. Other debuts scheduled to price before the end of the year include Airbnb, the games platform Roblox and the e-commerce site Wish.

DoorDash’s new valuation target, billions of dollars higher than it had planned for just a few days ago, shows just how lofty expectations have become. In a private fund-raising round in June, the company was valued at $16 billion.

DoorDash has been pitching prospective shareholders — virtually, through videoconference calls — on its offering this week, touting its enormous platform and growth during the pandemic. The company argues that it stands to be one of the winners of the food-delivery space, even as it currently loses money.

The company is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange next week, under the ticker symbol DASH.

  • Stocks ticked higher on Friday, with Wall Street poised to end the week continuing the upswing seen in recent weeks.

  • Behind some of the gains was growing confidence of a deal being struck on Capitol Hill for coronavirus relief. “Compromise is within reach,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on Thursday. Democratic leaders, and some Republicans, have voiced support for a $908 billion framework for aid, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has urged passage.

  • The November jobs report, published Friday, showed a slowing recovery in hiring, with just 245,000 jobs added last month. On Thursday, the government reported initial claims for state unemployment benefits in the United States dipped last week, after rising for two consecutive weeks.

  • The S&P 500 rose about half a percent in early trading. European stock indexes also were higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 gaining 0.4 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 up about 0.7 percent. Most stock markets in Asia had ended the day in positive territory.

  • Oil futures also rose slightly, with Brent crude just short of the $50 a barrel mark last hit in early March after major producers reached an agreement on Thursday for a modest increase in production in January, a sign that they believe the world’s demand for crude is stirring after a mostly horrendous year for the oil business.

  • Across the Atlantic, Brexit talks are continuing into perhaps their final weekend. Britain’s transition period for leaving the European Union ends Dec. 31, and it remains unclear if there will be a trade agreement for the new year. Any deal would need to be approved by the European Council, the bloc’s chief political body, made up of heads of state of member countries. It holds its last meeting of the year next Thursday.

A shuttered restaurant in Paris in November. The French government will pay for up to 10 days of vacation leave for every furloughed employee of restaurants, bars, hotels and sports centers that have been forced to remain closed under France’s latest lockdown.
Credit…Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

To the list of generous support measures that France has rolled out to shield workers and businesses from the pandemic, add a new one: footing the bill for vacation pay.

The government said late Wednesday that it would pay for up to 10 days of vacation leave for every furloughed employee of restaurants, bars, hotels and sports centers that have been forced to remain closed and have lost business under France’s latest lockdown.

The pledge, which the Labor Ministry said would cost “several hundred million euros,” came after industry representatives complained that employers couldn’t afford to pay those benefits for lack of income.

The hospitality industry has been hammered by forced lockdowns and social distancing rules. While stores were recently allowed to reopen in France after a second national lockdown in October, restaurants and bars will stay closed through at least Jan. 20, prompting employers to keep workers sidelined on furlough schemes.

Under the taxpayer-funded government support plan, furloughed workers receive 84 percent of their net salary, subsidized by the state.

Yet even if employees aren’t working, they are still on their firms’ payroll, so vacation continues to accumulate. In France, salaried workers accrue 2.5 vacation days a month. According to the Union of Trade and Hospitality Industries, which represents the hotel and restaurant industry, 16 million days of paid leave haven’t been taken since March, representing an estimated cost to employers of 1.5 billion euros.

Faced with a potentially staggering bill, restaurants, hotels and gyms, many of which are barely staying afloat on a combination of cheap state-backed loans and payroll subsidies, pressed the government for additional financial relief for vacation pay.

After heated negotiations, in which the industry asked the government to pay for 15 days of vacation per employee, the Labor ministry agreed to foot the bill for 10 days. Employers will receive full compensation, meaning that workers will be paid 100 percent of their salary when exercising the vacation days.

Under the deal, restaurant, cafe, hotel, bar, gym and hotel employees must use those days between Jan. 1 and the expected Jan. 20 reopening. Businesses are eligible if they were closed for at least 140 days this year or if sales slumped more than 90 percent during national lockdowns.

Since the coronavirus hit, France has outlined over 400 billion euros in state-backed loans and direct subsidies to prevent a wave of bankruptcies and mass unemployment.

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