Economy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth
The U.S. added 235,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent as the economy appeared to falter under surging coronavirus cases, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.
Economists had expected employment growth to slow slightly in August to a gain of roughly 750,000 jobs, according to consensus forecasts, amid falling consumer confidence and disruptive school closures.
Declines in restaurant reservations, air travel and other key drivers of the recovery also raised red flags about the August jobs haul.
“Today’s report has the delta variant written all over it. It is clear that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is a strong headwind to the labor market,” wrote Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed. I break it down here.
Delta homes in on pandemic-sensitive industries: The August jobs report showed setbacks in sectors of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic and crucial to the comeback from its economic blow.
The leisure and hospitality sector did not add any net jobs in August as a 42,000-job decline in restaurants and bars wiped out a 36,000-job gain in arts and entertainment.
Employment in retail, another hard-hit sector, also fell by 29,000 thanks to steep losses at grocery stores and building material and garden supply stores.
“The industry breakdown in employment growth shows clear signs that the increased COVID-19 spread is behind this relatively weak number,” Bunker wrote. “Yet, the labor market is still recovering.”
Signs of resilience:While job growth slowed significantly in August, the first full month since the delta surge picked up in mid-July, the labor market still showed signs of holding strong.
Labor force participation stayed even at 61.7 percent in August and the employment to population ratio — a broader gauge of job market strength — ticked up 0.1 percentage points to 58.5 percent.
The number of Americans who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, known as the “long-term unemployed,” also dropped from 3.4 million to roughly 3.2 million. Those who suffer long-term unemployment often struggle to return to work and are hired at lower rates than those without long periods of joblessness.
Stronger days…behind? Upward revisions to June and July’s blockbuster jobs gains were another positive sign for the economy. June’s job haul was revised up from 938,000 to 962,000, and July’s was revised up from 943,000 to 1,053,000 — the first seven-digit job gain since August 2020.
“The underlying momentum is still there. We just have to see if we can keep up the pace until this surge is behind us,” Bunker said.
Unemployment claims jumped last week, as the delta variant of the coronavirus sparked rising caseloads around the country and renewed fears about the potential for more restrictions and business closures.
The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 368,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.
Economists said the uptick was concerning but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it was a one week aberration or telegraphed a more concerning turn for the labor market.
“The unexpected bump in claims could be noise in the system, but it’s also not hard to see how the rise of the covid-19 delta variant could add thousands of layoffs to numbers that already are double what they were pre-Covid,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Overall, unemployment numbers have been falling gradually from the peaks at other stages of the pandemic, but they are still well above pre-pandemic averages.
The jobless numbers have provided a jarring catalogue about the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic — spiking to records as the pandemic unfolded in March 2020, and remaining at historic high levels throughout most of 2020.
The coronavirus surge last fall helped precipitate a rise in claims that saw the labor market, as seen in the monthly jobs report, slide backward too.
But until recently, the last few months been marked by strong jobs growth and a sense of optimism as vaccinations picked up, giving economists hope that the country was back on track to recovering the nearly 7 million jobs it is still down from before the pandemic.
Now, the delta variant is driving an alarming increase in covid-19 cases around the country, according to public health officials: the number of new cases increased more than 40 percent in the last week, sending jitters through the stock market, and is raising questions about whether state and local health authorities will reinstitute restrictions to slow the virus’ spread.
Frick said that the report showed the potential for unemployment claims to start trending upward after months of steady declines.
“There’s definitely a correlation, however loose, that the rise in covid does cause a rise in claims,” he said. “My fear is that the rise in the delta variant could cause claims to go back up…Certainly one week doesn’t show that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see claims rise.”
However, there are also lots of signs that the economy continues to rebound despite rising caseloads.
The more than 2.2 million people that the Transportation Security Administration said it screened at airports on Sunday was the most since late February 2020 — and nearly three times the amount it was on the same day last year.
Restaurant dining has largely rebounded in recent months, at times surpassing the levels from before the pandemic — on Saturday the number of diners was 1 percent higher than the same day in 2019, according to data from Open Table.
Last week, some 12.5 million claims were filed for unemployment insurance overall, according to the most recent numbers — down from 32.9 million filed at the same point last year.
Nevada, Rhode Island and California topped the list of states with the highest number of people on unemployment, the Labor Department said.
Economic concerns in recent months have been more focused on the ways that workers are still held back from filling some of the more than 9 million job openings in the country, than unemployment, with high hopes that school re-openings in the fall will help many parents get back into the labor force.
Health Partners, one of the largest home healthcare providers in Michigan, laid off 560 employees at the beginning of July, including nurses, nursing assistants, therapists and direct care workers, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.
The layoffs occurred July 1 and happened as the Bingham Farms-based company is winding down business. The job losses are attributed to a 2019 state law capping Health Partners’ payment rates at 55 percent of what it bills insurance companies to care for injured motorists, said Chad Livengood, a senior editor at Crain’s Detroit Business.
Health Partners owner John G. Prosser II, who has been in the home health business for decades, said the company couldn’t absorb the losses from the new fee schedule, which cuts payments by 45 percent, according to Crain’s.
Other home healthcare companies in Michigan haven’t met the same fate as Health Partners because they rely more heavily on Medicaid, workers’ compensation insurance or private payers, according to the report.
Many U.S. hospitals are turning to layoffs to cut costs as they recover from the financial hit of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are seven hospitals or health systems that recently announced layoffs or job cuts:
1. Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Health will lay off 83 employees of its 100-year-old hospital in Hammond, Ind., according to a notice filed with the state. The layoff notice comes as the health system works to shrink the 226-bed Franciscan Health Hammond Hospital to an eight-bed acute care facility with an emergency department and primary care practice. The layoffs are slated to begin Aug. 21 and will be permanent, the health system said.
2. HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, a three-hospital system in the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, laid off an undisclosed number of workers June 14. Westchester Medical Center Health Network in Valhalla, N.Y., said it laid off HealthAlliance hospital employees in Kingston, N.Y., to eliminate redundancies as it begins to consolidate inpatient services to one location.
3. As part of a financial restructuring plan, Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Healthwill issue another round of layoffs this year. The health system said in early June it plans to lay off 400 employees. These newly announced layoffs are in addition to 277 information technology jobs that were cut April 2. Sutter said most of the new layoffs affect employees in administrative positions in benefits, human resources, data services and accounting. The layoff notice said many of these employees were working remotely or in the field.
4. A little over a month after filing a notice to complete about 651 layoffs this year, Ascension Technologies, the IT subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ascension,eliminated 92 remote IT jobs in Indiana, according to a June 3 report. Most of the laid-off employees are based in Indianapolis and Evansville, Ind., the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said June 2
5. Lawrence (Mass.) General Hospital plans to lay off 56 employees and is warning of more cuts unless it receives government aid quickly, according to a May 25 report. The layoffs will affect employees working in administration and patient care. The layoffs affect about 2.5 percent of the 186-bed hospital’s workforce. Lawrence General attributed the layoffs to the COVID-19 pandemic weakening its financial profile.
6. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America closed its hospital in Tulsa, Okla. About 400 employees will be affected by the closure. The hospital saw its last patient on May 27.
7. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America is selling its hospital in Philadelphia and will lay off the facility’s 365 employees, according to a closure notice filed with the state. The cancer care network said it anticipates the layoffs in Philadelphia will begin after May 30.
Abstract:This article is the second in the series that addresses the initial stages of going through a career transition. Career management articles in the blog have been popular. A transition is a traumatic event, to say the least, especially the first time. These articles address what you should be doing BEFORE your transition occurs.
In the last piece that is the first in this series, I addressed the fact that there is little relationship between how good you are at what you do and the probability that you will end up in a transition.
This article addresses what you should be doing to prepare for an unplanned transition.
The ACHE tracks hospital CEO turnover. The average annual rate is around 18%. According to Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, hospital CEO is one of America’s most dangerous occupations measured by potential longevity or lack thereof in a position. One of my most popular articles discusses some of the many reasons for executive turnover that have little to do with performance. A lot of people are very interested in the topic.
HFMA does not track CFO turnover, but it is probably equally rampant as CFOs too often get credit for substandard organizational performance despite having little control or influence over the incurrence of operating cost or results. CFOs and other C-Suite inhabitants bear a disproportionate risk of having their career disrupted by CEO turnover.
If you start asking around, you might be surprised to learn how many healthcare executives were involuntarily ‘freed up to seek other opportunities’ at least once in their career. When I told my friend John at a reunion that I had decided to go into the consulting business, he immediately accused me (correctly) of having been fired. John went on to tell me how lucky I was because few executives that are disruptive innovators have not been fired at least once. To my friend, having been fired is a rite of passage.
John’s career goal at the time was to become the CEO of a large hospital, and he believed that a transition would strengthen his CV. As fate would have it, not too long after the reunion, I got the call from John and, you know, the rest of the story. John went on from this setback to become the long-running CEO of one of the largest Baptist hospitals in the southeast.
For those who push hard in organizations to get them to change their culture for the better and get on a better track, the risk of being let go is much higher. With one exception, every person that I have ever worked with through a transition has emerged a wiser, stronger person in a position much better suited for their skills and talents. While I would never encourage anyone to go through a transition, the process’s outcome has been both cathartic and career-enhancing.
So, given this risk, what should you be doing? Your preparation for a turnover event should start IMMEDIATELY!! If you wait until you are out, you have waited WAY TOO LONG!! If you do not have a networking database, you need to start immediately to develop this asset. My networking database commenced during my first transition. It now has over 3,000 companies and over 4,100 contacts. Most of my contacts are business-related, and most of them will respond to an email or return a call. Contrast this with the call I get too often from a newly terminated executive asking for connection assistance, that never bothered to record phone numbers or email addresses of people that may be in a position to be of help. Too many friends had contact files stored on a corporate phone or a corporate database and lost them when they turned over a phone or access to corporate systems was terminated. Frequently, access is restricted right before the victim learns of their fate as a security measure of the organization. Getting your data back if this happens is not going to be easy or fun.
For this reason, I have successfully refused to use a company-owned phone or put my networking database developed over twenty years on a computer system I do not control. The problem with having business and personal data on the same device is if you give the organization access to ‘their data, they cannot lock it selectively. When they lock or wipe the device, they are going to destroy everything on the device. My networking database is my most valuable personal asset. There is an article in my blog dedicated to networking. The time to start building your networking database and skill is before you need it.
You should start the process of thinking through the next step in your career. Get out a piece of paper. What do you like about your current situation and wish to preserve? What do you want to change? Where are you willing to relocate? What is your idea of the perfect relationship with a superior? What will the effect of a termination/relocation be on your family, and how will you manage that? In other words, what are you going to be when you grow up? A turnover event is sometimes the catalyst that causes someone to decide to start their own business. Is there a path forward in your current situation, or should you be thinking about proactively inducing your turnover event or at least beginning preparations? People that have been through transitions will tell you from experience that it is a lot easier to get a job while employed than when you are not employed.
A turnover event is a huge psychological and physical burden. Everyone around you is going to be affected. Do not delude yourself into thinking you can manage a transition without help, especially the first one. My dad had a sign in his shop,
Labor – $20
If you watch – $40
If you help – $80
If you already worked on it yourself, $200
My most significant learning from consulting experience is recognizing when an expert is needed and understanding the necessity of getting my ego out of the way in the process of seeking and availing myself or my client of expert assistance. Clients and consultants do more harm than good by trying to do something they have no business doing in a frequently futile effort to save money. Sometimes, the results are disastrous. We have all heard the adages that a doctor treating himself has an idiot patient or a lawyer who represents himself has a moron for a client.
Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions, or interim services. I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations. Some of my feedback comes from people who are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries.
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