BLS Releases August 2020 Employment Situation (Sept. 2020)
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In August, an increase in government employment largely reflected temporary hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, in professional and business services, in leisure and hospitality, and in education and health services.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million in August, following increases of larger magnitude in the prior 3 months. In August, nonfarm employment was below its February level by 11.5 million, or 7.6 percent. Government employment rose in August, largely reflecting temporary hiring for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in retail trade, in professional and business services, in leisure and hospitality, and in education and health services.
Employment in government increased by 344,000 in August, accounting for one-fourth of the over-the-month gain in total nonfarm employment. A job gain in federal government (+251,000) reflected the hiring of 238,000 temporary 2020 Census workers. Local government employment rose by 95,000 over the month. Overall, government employment is 831,000 below its February level.
Retail trade added 249,000 jobs in August, with almost half the growth occurring in general merchandise stores (+116,000). Notable gains also occurred in motor vehicle and parts dealers (+22,000), electronics and appliance stores (+21,000), and miscellaneous store retailers (+17,000). Employment in retail trade is 655,000 lower than in February.
In August, employment in professional and business services increased by 197,000. More than half of the gain occurred in temporary help services (+107,000). Architectural and engineering services (+14,000), business support services (+13,000), and computer systems design and related services (+13,000) also added jobs over the month. Employment in professional and business services is 1.5 million below its February level.
Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 174,000 in August, with about three-fourths of the gain occurring in food services and drinking places (+134,000). Despite job gains totaling 3.6 million over the last 4 months, employment in food services and drinking places is down by 2.5 million since February.
In August, employment in education and health services increased by 147,000 but is 1.5 million below February’s level. Health care employment increased by 75,000 over the month, with gains in offices of physicians (+27,000), offices of dentists (+22,000), hospitals (+14,000), and home health care services (+12,000). Elsewhere in health care, job losses continued in nursing and residential care facilities (-14,000). Employment in private education rose by 57,000 over the month.
Employment in transportation and warehousing rose by 78,000 in August, with gains in warehousing and storage (+34,000), transit and ground passenger transportation (+11,000), and truck transportation (+10,000). Employment in transportation and warehousing is down by 381,000 since February. The other services industry added 74,000 jobs in August, reflecting gains in membership associations and organizations (+31,000), repair and maintenance (+29,000), and personal and laundry services (+14,000). Employment in other services is 531,000 lower than in February.
Financial activities added 36,000 jobs in August, with most of the growth in real estate and rental and leasing (+23,000). Employment in financial activities is down by 191,000 since February. In August, manufacturing employment rose by 29,000, with gains concentrated in the nondurable goods component (+27,000). Despite gains in recent months, employment in manufacturing is 720,000 below February’s level.