Diverse colleagues wearing face masks working in office. hygiene and social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus covid 19 pandemic.

The US job market still has 9.8 million jobs to gain back to reach pre-pandemic levels. But recovery is stalling at a time when virus cases are soaring, and more and more Americans are experiencing long-term unemployment. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the market gained just 245,000 nonfarm jobs in November — almost half the amount economists predicted for the month and far fewer than the 638,000 jobs added in October. The nation’s unemployment rate fell from 6.9% in October to 6.7% in November.

Jobless for the holidays

In November, another 385,000 workers joined those who’ve been unemployed for six months or more, bringing the total to 3.9 million and nearly reaching a historical record. This group now accounts for 37% of the total unemployed. 

Lack of childcare, difficulties finding jobs, and other challenges drove roughly 400,000 people to drop out of the workforce last month, bringing the participation rate down to 61.5%. Those who aren’t currently in the labor force but want a job added 448,000 people to their ranks, bumping up the total to 7.1 million.

The pandemic continues to be the primary cause of job loss. Nearly 15 million people were unable to work in November due to business closure. And 3.9 million of those not in the labor force cited the pandemic as the reason they were unable to look for work (up from 3.6 million in October).

Unemployment rates fall for nearly all groups, but not by much

Unemployment rates changed little across racial, age, and gender demographics in November, although most of the change was positive: 

  • Adult men: 6.7% (6.7% in October)
  • Adult women: 6.1% (6.5% in October)
  • Teenagers: 14% (13.9% in October)
  • Black/African American: 10.3% (10.8% in October)
  • Hispanic/Latino: 8.4% (8.8% in October)
  • Asian: 6.7% (7.6% in October)
  • White: 5.9% (6.0% in October)

There are still significant gaps between racial groups — the unemployment rate for Black workers remains at nearly twice that of White workers.

More jobs for warehousing, fewer for retail

With online shopping on the rise, transportation and warehousing companies are adding jobs, while retail businesses are losing them. Transportation and warehousing gained 145,000 jobs in November — more than double the number of jobs added in October (63,000). 

But retail trade employment declined by 35,000 jobs as businesses hired fewer seasonal workers than usual. The industry is still behind its February status by 550,000 jobs.

Several other industries also gained jobs last month, including: 

  • Professional and business services: 60,000 (208,000 in October) 
  • Health care: 46,000 (79,000 in October)
  • Construction: 27,000 (84,000 in October)
  • Manufacturing 27,000 (38,000 in October)

Government lost another 99,000 jobs in November, 93,000 of which were temporary Census positions. 

Although November’s progress is disappointing and there could be a harsh winter ahead, the COVID-19 vaccine developments are promising — widespread distribution may reinvigorate economic recovery and stimulate job growth.