The newly-released report on the state of U.S. labor showed the unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent in August, exceeding expectations and down notably from 10.2 percent in July. Despite a slowdown in the number of jobs added and recognizing that temporary Census workers are included in this data, the acting chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Tyler Goodspeed still saw the news as a net positive.
"Even stripping out those census workers, we have private payroll employment growth of more than one million," Goodspeed told Cheddar. "When we look at the household survey, we saw 3.8 million jobs added."
The economic adviser also explained that despite an increase in the number of people looking for work, which would ordinarily bump up the rate, the rate fell significantly. He credited the strength of the pre-pandemic labor market as well as the Trump administration's economic response to COVID-19's impact, which came in the form of the "Paycheck Protection Program, employee retention tax credits, and additional measures to support household incomes."
With the mixed news of rapidly falling unemployment coupled with the slowing growth of jobs, Goodspeed also addressed the White House's position on the need for a new stimulus package. He said that President Donald Trump wants legislation that reloads the Paycheck Protection Program, continues enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, provides tax incentives for worker retention and hiring, and increases funding for state and local governments along with schools for safer reopenings.
"Frankly, we have been baffled by the unwillingness of counterparts on [Capitol] Hill to move on these parts, despite the fact that the White House has repeatedly offered additional funds on each of these provisions for which there is actually agreement," Goodspeed stated.
Meanwhile, with calls for racial justice persisting throughout the summer, the August report showed that while the Black jobless rate fell from 14.6 percent to 13 percent, it was still nearly double that of the rate for white workers of 7.3 percent.
"Certainly the overall unemployment rate is still too high," Goodspeed acknowledged. "As you know, there's a lot of ground to be made up. We've recovered about 50 percent of overall job losses since March and April, and now the task is recovering the remaining 50 percent."
Among the 1.4 million jobs added in August, government positions led in growth with 344,000 hires, including 238,000 Census workers, followed by retail at 249,000, with sectors like professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services coming in behind.
"One of the things we did find encouraging about this report was that the gains were pretty broad-based," Goodspeed noted. "In fact, of the major categories, only one, mining, was down."
Yet, the coronavirus pandemic still remains a safety concern hampering full reopenings throughout the summer in various states. Goodspeed, however, made the case that many of the job gains happened despite pauses and the return of restrictions. "I think that does bode well for the strength of the labor market recovery," he concluded.