The United States (US) unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in September, from 8.4% in August, a big drop that in normal times would be welcome news for a presidential incumbent seeking reelection in just over a month.
As the best-known summary statistic of the labor market, the US unemployment rate is a “a psychologically important number” for voters, said Michael Brown, principal US economist at Visa.
But President Donald Trump’s announcement on Friday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus pushes that number into the background: Voters may be “weighing news related to the virus a bit more than the economic data right now,” Brown said.
The drop in the September jobless rate, reported by the Labour Department on Friday, extends a steep downward trend from the 14.7% registered in April, which was the highest level since the Great Depression.
In this video below, US unemployment was rated down to 10.2%:
But other details in the report do not easily fit into Trump’s narrative of an economy roaring back to life.
Monthly job gains slowed. Overall, of the 22 million jobs lost since February, the economy has recouped about half.
“Regaining the other half is going to be a whole lot harder,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.
Notably, some 865 000 women left the labor force last month, the data shows, about four times the number of men. Latinas accounted for more than a third of that decline, the report showed.
Those populations are key to Trump’s reelection hopes as well as those of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The mass exit of women from their jobs coincided with the start of the US school year, with many children learning online and at home.