Hospitality, retail led job gains in July

Unemployment levels improved slightly, but 16.3M remain out of work

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia (Scalia by Samuel Corum/Getty Images; Noam Galai/Getty Images; Mike Pont/Getty Images)
Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia (Scalia by Samuel Corum/Getty Images; Noam Galai/Getty Images; Mike Pont/Getty Images)

The hospitality, leisure and retail sectors led job gains in July, with unemployment levels improving slightly overall.

Payroll employment rose by 1.8 million in July and the unemployment rate declined to 10.2 percent, following a high of 14.7 percent in April, according to Department of Labor figures released Friday. Still, 16.3 million Americans remain jobless — and an additional 10.3 million were not counted because they searched for unemployment in the past year, but gave up their search or did not take a job in the past month.

Most of the job gains were in the leisure and hospitality, government, retail, professional and business services and health care sectors.

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The number of part-time workers rose dramatically, from 803,000 to 24 million, while full-time employees remained at about 119.5 million.

In its monthly report, DOL attributed the improvements to “the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.”

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Real estate and rental and leasing added 15,000 jobs in July, but overall financial activities jobs are still down 216,000 since February.

The leisure and hospitality sectors added 592,000 jobs, accounting for about one-third of the July’s employment increases. The hospitality and leisure sector was initially hit the hardest, losing 7.7 million jobs in April, most of which were from bars and restaurants. Employment in bars and restaurants added more than half a million jobs in July, following a larger gain of 2.9 million over the previous two months. Still, 2.6 million fewer workers are employed in bars and restaurants than in February.

Construction employment stayed mostly steady, adding just 20,000 after that sector recovered 619,000 jobs in May and June. Construction industry employment is still 444,000 below the February level.

Retail added 258,000 jobs, nearly half of which were among clothing stores. Still, the figure is down 913,000 from before the pandemic.

Mike Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, called the gains an “impressive rebound,” but underscored the severity of the economic downturn.

“The unemployment rate declined in July, but at 10.2 percent, this is still higher than the peak during the Great Recession,” he said. The unemployment rate is estimated to have reached about 25 percent during the Great Depression in 1933, before DOL began collecting seasonally adjusted data.