US adds 850,000 jobs in June but unemployment rate ticks up to 5.9%

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — America’s employers added 850,000 jobs in June, well above the average of the previous three months and a sign that companies may be having an easier time finding enough workers to fill open jobs.

The report, issued by the Department of Labor on Friday, was the latest sign that the reopening of the economy is propelling a rebound from the pandemic recession. Restaurant traffic across the country is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, and more people are shopping, traveling and attending sports and entertainment events.

More than 150 million people are fully immunized, leading to the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions on businesses and mask mandates. The number of people flying each day has regained about 80% of its pre-COVID-19 levels, and Americans’ confidence in the economic outlook has nearly fully recovered.

Speaking at the White House, President Joe Biden touted the job gains and suggested that his economic policies, including a $1.9 trillion economic relief plan that was enacted in March, were intended to make it easier for workers to find higher-paying jobs.

“The strength of our recovery is helping us flip the script,” Biden said. “Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers.”

The unemployment rate rose from 5.8% in May to 5.9% in June, the report showed. Despite the job market’s steady improvement, unemployment remains well above the 3.5% rate that prevailed before the pandemic struck, and the economy remains 6.8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.

But joblessness has plummeted from the 14.8% rate in April of last year, just after the coronavirus erupted and triggered tens of millions of layoffs.

The number of advertised job openings reached 9.3 million in April, the highest in 20 years of data, according to the Labor Department. The employment website Indeed has said that job postings have increased still further since then.

The result is that many businesses are desperate to hire and have posted a record-high number of jobs. With competition for workers intensifying, especially at restaurants and tourist and entertainment venues, employers are offering higher pay, along with signing and retention bonuses and more flexible hours. The proportion of job advertisements that promise a bonus has more than doubled in the past year, the employment website Indeed has found.

Politicians, businesses and some economists have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits, including a $300 weekly check from the government, for the labor crunch. Lack of affordable child care and fears of contracting the coronavirus have also been blamed for keeping workers, mostly women, at home.

On Thursday, the government reported that the number of people who applied for jobless aid last week fell to 364,000, the lowest level since the pandemic began.

There are also signs that people are re-evaluating their work and personal lives and aren’t necessarily interested in returning to their old jobs, particularly those that offer modest wages. The proportion of Americans who quit their jobs in April reached its highest level in more than 20 years.

Rising numbers of people quitting jobs, often for higher-paying positions, mean that even employers that have been hiring may be struggling to maintain sufficient staffing levels.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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