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US hiring rebound stalls amid surge in virus cases

[WASHINGTON] The US labour-market rebound markedly slowed in November, indicating the surge in Covid-19 cases is hitting workers and curbing the broader economic recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 245,000 from the prior month, as the unemployment rate dipped 0.2 percentage point to 6.7 per cent, according to a Labor Department report out on Friday. The labour-force participation rate and employment-population ratio both declined, in negative signs for the economy.

The median estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 460,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls and an unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent. Payroll estimates ranged from a 100,000 monthly decline to a 750,000 gain. The main figure reflects a decline of 93,000 temporary workers who had been hired for the decennial census.

The data raise the chances that President-elect Joe Biden will inherit an even weaker labour market next year, with the recovery at risk of stalling during the wait for widespread vaccine distribution. With millions still enduring long-term joblessness, the report may also help push Congress to pass new fiscal aid and could make Federal Reserve officials more inclined to provide new stimulus when they meet Dec 15-16.

The employment report is a mid-month snapshot, so jobs lost amid new restrictions and lockdowns put into place in the weeks since won't be reflected until December's data.

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The shift to online shopping this holiday season was especially evident in the data: transportation and warehousing added 145,000 workers - the most since 1997 - while retail employment fell by 34,700, reflecting less seasonal hiring than normal in some areas.

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