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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Transmission of material in this statement is embargoed until
8:30 a.m. (ET) September 4, 2020.

                          Statement of

                        William W. Beach
                    Bureau of Labor Statistics

                    Friday, September 4, 2020

      Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1.4 million in 
August, and the unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage 
points to 8.4 percent. These improvements 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, employment rose in several major industry 
sectors. A gain in government largely reflected the hiring of 
temporary workers 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 
      The August payroll employment increase of 1.4 million 
followed gains of 1.7 million in July, 4.8 million in June, and 
2.7 million in May. As of August, total nonfarm employment is 
11.5 million, or 7.6 percent, lower than in February, before the 
pandemic crisis unfolded in many parts of the United States. 
Although unemployment fell for the fourth month in a row in 
August, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed 
people are up by 4.9 percentage points and 7.8 million, 
respectively, since February.
      The response rate for the establishment survey was above 
normal for August, and the rate for the household survey, while 
still well below normal due to pandemic-related issues, ticked 
up over the month. The impact of the pandemic on the household 
and payroll surveys is detailed in the August Employment 
Situation news release and accompanying materials (available on 
the BLS website at For 
both surveys, we were able to obtain estimates that meet BLS 
standards for accuracy and reliability.
      Taking a closer look at the August payroll data, employment 
in government increased by 344,000, accounting for one-fourth of 
the over-the-month growth in total nonfarm employment. Federal 
government employment rose by 251,000, reflecting the hiring of 
238,000 temporary workers for the 2020 Census. Local government 
added 95,000 jobs over the month. Despite these gains, 
employment in government is 831,000 lower than in February.
      Employment in retail trade increased by 249,000 in August. 
Job growth occurred in most retail industries in August, 
although almost half of the gain occurred in general merchandise 
stores (+116,000). Other notable job gains occurred in motor 
vehicle and parts dealers (+22,000), electronics and appliance 
stores (+21,000), miscellaneous store retailers (+17,000), and 
health and personal care stores (+15,000). In August, retail 
trade employment was 655,000 lower than in February.
      In August, professional and business services added 197,000 
jobs, with more than half of the gain occurring in temporary 
help services (+107,000). Elsewhere in the industry, 
architectural and engineering services (+14,000), computer 
systems design and related services (+13,000), and business 
support services (+13,000) added jobs over the month. On net, 
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, after gains of 621,000 in July and 2.0 million in 
June. However, employment is 4.1 million lower than in February. 
Within the industry, food services and drinking places added 
134,000 jobs in August, but employment is 2.5 million lower than 
the February level.
      In August, education and health services added 147,000 
jobs. Health care employment increased by 75,000, 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 over the month in 
nursing and residential care facilities (-14,000), with declines 
totaling 229,000 since February. Employment in private education 
rose by 57,000 in August. Overall, employment in education and 
health services is down by 1.5 million from February.
      Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 
78,000 in August but is down by 381,000 since February. In 
August, notable job gains occurred in warehousing and storage 
(+34,000), transit and ground passenger transportation 
(+11,000), and truck transportation (+10,000).
      Employment in the other services industry rose by 74,000 in 
August, with gains occurring in membership associations and 
organizations (+31,000), repair and maintenance (+29,000), and 
personal and laundry services (+14,000). Since February, 
employment in the other services industry is down by 531,000.
      In August, employment in financial activities increased by 
36,000 but is 191,000 lower than its February level. Over the 
month, job gains occurred in real estate and rental and leasing 
(+23,000) and nondepository credit intermediation (+10,000).
      Employment in manufacturing rose by 29,000 in August, with 
most of the gain occurring in the nondurable goods component 
(+27,000). Since February, manufacturing employment is down by 
      In August, wholesale trade added 14,000 jobs, with an 
increase in nondurable goods (+9,000). Employment in wholesale 
trade is 328,000 lower than its February level.
      Construction employment changed little in August (+16,000) 
but is 425,000 lower than in February. Within specialty trade 
construction, residential contractors added jobs in August 
(+25,000), while nonresidential contractors lost jobs (-16,000).
      Average weekly hours for all private-sector workers rose by 
0.1 hour in August to 34.6 hours. The average workweek for 
manufacturing rose by 0.3 hour in August to 40.0 hours. One 
should continue to be cautious when interpreting changes in the 
workweek at the total private level. In particular, large 
employment changes in industries with shorter- or longer-than-
average workweeks can complicate monthly comparisons of average 
weekly hours.
      Similarly, changes in average hourly earnings in recent 
months must be interpreted with caution. Average hourly earnings 
of all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 11 
cents in August to $29.47, following an increase of 4 cents in 
      Turning to the labor market indicators from the household 
survey, the unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points 
to 8.4 percent in August, and the number of unemployed people 
decreased by 2.8 million to 13.6 million. Both measures have 
decreased for 4 consecutive months, but remain much higher than 
in February, before the pandemic.
      As in the prior 3 months, the decrease in unemployment in 
August was driven by a decline among people on temporary layoff 
(-3.1 million). The decline was partially offset by an increase 
in the number of permanent job losers, which rose by 534,000 to 
3.4 million. The number of unemployed reentrants to the labor 
force decreased by 263,000 in August to 2.1 million.
      The unemployment rates fell in August for adult men (8.0 
percent), adult women (8.4 percent), teenagers (16.1 percent), 
Whites (7.3 percent), Blacks (13.0 percent), and Hispanics (10.5 
percent). The rate for Asians (10.7 percent) changed little.
      Among the unemployed, the number of people searching for 
work for less than 5 weeks declined by 921,000 to 2.3 million in 
August. The number of unemployed people who were jobless 5 to 14 
weeks fell by 2.0 million to 3.1 million. The number of people 
who were jobless 15 to 26 weeks was essentially unchanged at 6.5 
million; these individuals accounted for 48.1 percent of the 
unemployed. The number of people searching for work for 27 weeks 
or more also was little changed, at 1.6 million.
      The labor force participation rate increased by 0.3 
percentage point in August to 61.7 percent but is 1.7 percentage 
points below its February level. Total employment, as measured 
by the household survey, rose by 3.8 million over the month to 
147.3 million. The employment-population ratio increased by 1.4 
percentage points to 56.5 percent but is 4.6 percentage points 
lower than in February.
      The number of people who usually work full time rose by 2.8 
million in August to 122.4 million, and the number who usually 
work part time increased by 991,000 to 25.0 million.
      In August, the number of people at work part time for 
economic reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time 
workers) decreased by 871,000 to 7.6 million, reflecting the 
continued decline in the number of people whose hours were cut 
due to slack work or business conditions. The August decline in 
involuntary part-time workers follows decreases of 619,000 in 
July and 1.6 million in June. The number of workers affected by 
this type of underemployment was 3.3 million higher than its 
February level.
      The number of people not in the labor force who currently 
want a job declined by 747,000 in August to 7.0 million. This 
measure is 2.0 million higher than in February.
      Among those who were not in the labor force in August but 
wanted a job, 2.1 million were considered marginally attached to 
the labor force, little changed over the month. (People who are 
marginally attached to the labor force had not actively looked 
for work in the 4 weeks prior to the survey but wanted a job, 
were available for work, and had looked for a job within the 
last 12 months.) Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally 
attached who believed no jobs were available for them, numbered 
535,000 in August, down by 130,000 over the month.
      As has been the case since March, household survey 
interviewers were instructed in August to classify employed 
persons absent from work due to temporary, coronavirus-related 
business closures or cutbacks as unemployed on temporary layoff. 
BLS and Census Bureau analyses of the underlying data suggest 
that there still may be some workers affected by the pandemic 
who should have been classified as unemployed on temporary 
layoff. However, the share of responses that may have been 
misclassified was much smaller in July and August than in prior 
      For March through July, BLS published an estimate of what 
the unemployment rate would have been had misclassified workers 
been included. Repeating this same approach, the overall August 
unemployment rate would have been 0.7 percentage point higher 
than reported. However, this represents the upper bound of our 
estimate of misclassification and probably overstates the size 
of the misclassification error. BLS continues to conduct 
research on this issue. Additional information is available 
online at
      Beginning in May, questions were added to the household 
survey to help gauge the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on 
the labor market. The data from these questions shed more light 
on how work and job search activity have been affected by the 
      In August, 24.3 percent of employed people teleworked 
because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 26.4 percent in 
July. These data refer to employed people who teleworked or 
worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks 
specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic.
      In August, 24.2 million people reported that they had been 
unable to work because their employer closed or lost business 
due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all or worked 
fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the 
pandemic. This was down from 31.3 million in July. Among those 
who reported in August that they were unable to work because of 
pandemic-related closures or lost business, 11.6 percent 
received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not 
      About 5.2 million people not in the labor force in August  
were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This 
is down from 6.5 million in July. (To be counted as unemployed, 
by definition, individuals must either be actively looking for 
work or on temporary layoff.)
      These supplemental data are not seasonally adjusted. Tables 
with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months 
are available online at
      Summarizing the major labor market developments in August, 
nonfarm payroll employment increased by 1.4 million, and the 
unemployment rate declined to 8.4 percent.

Last Modified Date: September 23, 2020