U.S. businesses slowed hiring in November, adding only 307,000 workers to their private payrolls – missing the benchmark that analysts had expected and probably heightening concerns that companies and households will continue to struggle without further action from Congress to deliver coronavirus aid.
The figures reported Wednesday by ADP Research Institute mark a disappointing departure from the 475,000 jobs that some economists had predicted.
November’s tally failed to improve upon or even match the gains of 405,000 jobs from October, suggesting that the economic recovery is slowing, even as hopes of a viable coronavirus vaccine have lifted business prospects and have begun to outline a potential end to the pandemic.
The decelerating gains were the lowest payroll numbers ADP has reported since the summer.
“While November saw employment gains, the pace continues to slow,” Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a statement. “Job growth remained positive across all industries and sizes.”
Nearly 90% of the job gains in November came in service-providing sectors, ADP reported, including leisure and hospitality, health care and administrative services, amounting to 276,000 roles. Construction jobs, meanwhile, increased by 22,000. Across all industries, medium-size businesses experienced the greatest gains, adding 139,000 jobs last month, while small businesses increased their ranks by 110,000, followed by the largest companies, which added 58,000 jobs.
ADP’s data is subject to revision and may not offer a complete picture of the U.S. labor market. On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its monthly employment report, which does not always align with ADP’s numbers.
But the payroll data offers another worrying sign amid surging coronavirus infections. On Monday, after the holiday weekend, U.S. health officials reported 181,769 new infections – one of the highest ever recorded. The figure also continues an alarming streak of more than 100,000 new daily cases for nearly 30 consecutive days. Hospitalizations over the past seven days also jumped 12%.
As the virus spreads and millions of Americans feel the crush of financial hardship, Congress has for months faced calls to fund another round of emergency relief. Lawmakers on Tuesday showed the first sign of movement in weeks, as a bipartisan group introduced an aid package totaling about $908 billion.
The effort arrived as other powerful figures aimed to steer the direction of economic relief, highlighting the lack of consensus in Washington and the protracted disagreements over the size of a deal and key provisions. President-elect Joe Biden has called for massive government spending. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Democrats are each crafting new proposals of their own.
The latest jobs figures may add a sense of urgency to unify the clashing approaches. But further political uncertainty remains. Two January runoff elections in Georgia will decide the makeup of the Senate, either granting Democrats control of Congress and the White House or allowing Republicans to maintain their slim majority.
More than 20 million Americans were receiving some form of unemployment aid as of early November, according to the Labor Department. The last two weekly unemployment reports show further worrisome signs, as new unemployment claims rose, and economists say further inaction from Congress in the face of a public health crisis could derail the fledgling recovery.