Hard-hit retail, restaurants, construction show big jobs gains in October

Unemployment dipped to 6.9% as private sector added 900K jobs

(Getty, iStock)
(Getty, iStock)

A handful of industries that have sustained the most damage from the pandemic reported the biggest job gains in October, pointing to an improving economy despite Covid-19’s surging numbers nationwide.

Travel and leisure companies added 271,000 jobs last month, retail added 104,000 positions and construction gained 84,000 jobs, according to data released Friday from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The private sector added 906,000 jobs to the economy in October, slightly higher than the 877,000 it added in September.

Overall, employment in the U.S. rose by 638,000 last month; the unemployment rate dipped to 6.9 percent, a point lower than in September. Government employment, however, fell by 268,000, with about half of those job cuts coming from temporary census positions.

“Some of the largest job gains this month were in those sectors hardest hit by the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, and retail trade,” said chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association Mike Fratantoni.

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But those industries continue to struggle, he said. “These sectors still have employment that is 4 million below February’s level,” Fratantoni said.

Despite job gains in travel and leisure, total employment in the sector remains substantially below pre-pandemic levels. The industry has added 4.8 million jobs since April, but employment remains down by 3.5 million since February, Labor Department statistics show.

In the construction industry, 789,000 jobs have been added in the last six months, but employment remains down by 294,000 since February.

Major hurdles lie ahead, as the wave of recent virus infections could put the brakes on business activity. And in many parts of the country, winter weather will constrain restaurants that have leaned heavily on outdoor dining to keep customers at the table.

One real estate sector that has fared better than most during the pandemic has been industrial. And in October, warehousing and storage grew by 28,000 jobs. Employment also increased in services to buildings and dwellings, adding a total of 19,000 jobs.