US unemployment rate falls to 8.4% even as hiring slows

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in August to 8.4% from 10.2% even as employers slowed their hiring again in one of the final major barometers of the economy to be released before Election Day.

Employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, down from 1.7 million in July and the fewest since hiring resumed in May. The economy has recovered barely half the 22 million jobs that vanished when the pandemic paralyzed the nation in early spring.

Economists noted that last month’s sharp drop in the unemployment rate reflected mainly businesses recalling workers who had been temporarily laid off rather than hiring new employees. The influx of those recalled workers has lowered unemployment more quickly than most economists had expected. But many other laid-off Americans now regard their job losses as permanent.

Private companies added just over 1 million jobs in August, with the government providing nearly 350,000 others, including a quarter-million temporary Census workers. That’s down from the 1.5 million jobs that companies added in July and a sign that employers remain cautious about the economic outlook with the pandemic still out of control.

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