Labor secretary says 194K jobs added in September was ‘not the best number’
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said the 194,000 jobs the U.S. added last month was “not the best number,” as the economy struggles to recover amid a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant.
Walsh said the U.S. has “work to do,” when asked about August and September’s below-expectations jobs reports during an interview with “Axios on HBO” that aired on Sunday.
“There’s no question that we have work to do. Number one, we’re still living with a pandemic; it’s a worldwide pandemic,” Walsh told Axios’s Dan Primack.
“Also, people concerned about the delta variant, people concerned about their personal health, we have folks that are vaccinated, folks that aren’t vaccinated, people who are vaccinated worried about the people that aren’t vaccinated,” he added.
Walsh’s comments come after the Labor Department announced on Friday that the economy added 194,000 jobs in September, which was significantly less than the roughly 500,000 new jobs economists had expected.
The unemployment rate did, however, fall by 0.4 percentage points to 4.8 percent, but employment growth also decreased for the second consecutive month.
September’s low numbers followed a below-expectations report in August, which saw just 366,000 jobs added when economists had expected to see roughly 750,000 new jobs.
The disappointing numbers come as the U.S. is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven largely by the highly infectious delta variant, which is the dominant variant in the U.S.
In July, before the delta variant took hold in the U.S., the economy had added more than 1 million jobs.
When asked if the U.S.’s job recovery has stalled, Walsh said “no, it hasn’t stalled at all,” contending that it is “just moving forward.”
“Since President Biden’s taken office we’ve had, you know, almost 5 million jobs added to the economy. If you look at the unemployment rate, it’s under 5 percent,” Walsh said.
Asked why so many people are still not going to work despite a large number of job openings, Walsh said he believes the explanation lies in people making life changes.
“One of the biggest reasons is — and again, no one’s tested this or checked it — I think it’s work-life balance,” Walsh said.
When pressed by Primack on what the “balance” is since they are not working, Walsh said “they’re looking at their career, and they’re just saying ‘we were in a career before. I want to get out of this career, I want to move forward.'”
“People are gonna have to go back into the workforce,” he added.
When asked how long individuals out of work can wait and say they are looking for a job, Walsh said “These questions are asked every month.”
“What’s the answer?” Primack asked.
“I don’t think there is an answer,” Walsh said.