The unemployment rate was 7.9% in September, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s down half a percentage point from the previous month but still up 4.4% from February before COVID-19 shutdowns began. An estimated 12.6 million people remained out of work in September, up 6.8 million from February. Others left the workforce: The labor force participation rate — the percentage of the population either working or actively seeking work — was down by two percentage points compared to February, at 61.4%.
Though unemployment declined overall from August to September, the month-over-month change was not the same for all groups. Among those with statistically significant shifts in their unemployment rates, the rate declined the most among Asian Americans (from 10.7% to 8.9%), followed by white Americans (from 7.3% to 7%). The month-over-month changes were not statistically significant among Black and Hispanic Americans, whose unemployment rates stood at 12.1% and 10.3%, respectively, in September. The jobless rate also fell among adults as a whole, with a statistically significant change, but remained stagnant for teenagers, at 15.9%.
A larger share of Americans were unemployed in September due to permanent layoffs than in previous months of the pandemic. The number of workers on permanent layoff increased from August to September, rising by 345,000 to 3.8 million. In total, an additional 2.5 million workers were on permanent layoff in September compared to February. Meanwhile, temporary layoff decreased by 1.5 million over the past month, landing at 4.6 million.
The BLS reports that 661,000 jobs were added in September — less than half of August job growth — and employment was down by 10.7 million jobs compared to February. Nearly half of the job gains were in leisure and hospitality, followed by retail, health care and social assistance, and professional and business services. In comparison to August — when government jobs increased due to temporary 2020 Census workers — government employment declined in September, mostly due to losses in state and local education.