The Labor Department reports that the economy gained a paltry 194,000 jobs in September. The disappointing numbers were less than half of the 500,000 new jobs projected by the Dow Jones.
Altogether the sluggish growth shows how heavily the Delta variant and the chronic worker shortage weigh on the economy.
Even with their knowledge and expertise, seeing the deflating numbers momentarily stunned the hosts of CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
The moment began with Steve Liesman, who looked down at the report and said, “194,” reflecting the 194,000 new jobs reported over the last month. “Whoa!” Becky Quick responded.
“I see 194,000? That is real low,” Liesman said. “Let me go to the jobless rate — wow, big decline, 4.8 percent, 5.1 was expected. Let me … see if I can find where the jobs were, and I think in this case, where the jobs weren’t.”
The so-called jobless rate declined, as Liesman noted, though it excludes Americans who hold part-time jobs but cannot find full-time work, as well as “discouraged workers” who have quit looking for work. The number was 8.5 percent with those groups included, a pandemic-low.
Economists attributed the lack of hiring at least partially to sustained Covid-19 mania, particularly in education, where employment declined by 144,000 among local governments and 17,000 among state governments. “The shortfall may be related to recent reports of difficulty in hiring for certain positions such as bus drivers, food service workers, or substitute teachers, often lower-wage and part-time positions filled by many older workers who may be more concerned about infection,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould noted on Twitter.