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The unemployment rate was 6.9% in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decline of one percentage point from the previous month is steeper than the half percentage point drop between August and September —but the unemployment rate was still double the 3.5% rate reported in February. Job growth was comparable to September, with another 638,000 jobs added to payrolls.

The unemployment rate for women seeking work dropped to 6.7%, falling below that of men for the first time since March, and an estimated 300,000 women also reentered the labor market between September and October. But women still make up 58.2% of those who have left the workforce since February and have not returned.

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People who had been jobless for 27 weeks or more accounted for 32.5% of all unemployed Americans in October. For context, people experiencing long-term unemployment made up just 7.9% of the total unemployed in June and 21.5% of those unemployed this time last year.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, people who had lost their jobs permanently also made up a greater share of the total unemployed than those on temporary layoff — 40.9% compared to 29.1%. People looking for work after leaving their positions or entering or reentering the job market accounted for larger shares of the unemployed in October as well, though job loss was still responsible for 70% of unemployment. Job loss made up 45.9% of unemployment in October of last year.

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Despite the jobs added over the past several months, employment remains down by 6.6% or 10.1 million jobs compared to February. The leisure and hospitality industry continued to lead in job recovery, hiring 271,000 more people in October, many in restaurants and bars, for a total of 4.8 million jobs added since April — accounting for 40% of total job growth in the past six months. But the industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic and still employs 3.5 million fewer people than it did in February. Professional and business services added 208,000 jobs this past month, followed by retail at 103,700 jobs. Retail, which also faced significant job losses in March and April, has added a total of 1.9 million jobs since then but remains down by around 500,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Government employment also fell by 268,000 in October — largely due to a loss of 147,000 temporary federal Census workers. But employment in local and state education also dropped by 98,000 and 61,000 jobs.

See more data about the impact of the pandemic on health, the economy, and individual Americans at the COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Hub.

Employment Situation
Last updated
2020