US employers added 638,000 jobs in October, as the labour market continued its slow rebound eight months from the start of the pandemic-fuelled downturn.

The latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics came in higher than economists’ forecast for a gain of 600,000 jobs. They also show that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 per cent, compared with 7.9 per cent a month earlier, and analysts’ average estimate of 7.7 per cent. That measure peaked at 14.7 per cent in April.

Although the US has recouped more than half the number of jobs that were lost early in the pandemic, a rise in new coronavirus cases in the US threatens to tap the brakes on the economic rebound, in a sign of the economic challenges that the next US president will face.

Employers added an average of 1.6m workers in July and August, followed by an increase of 672,000 jobs in September.

Some economists and Federal Reserve officials have also warned that the recovery could stall without additional stimulus, and the possibility that lawmakers can reach a deal on a new package of economic aid remain uncertain with the likelihood of a divided government in Washington as results from Tuesday’s election are tallied.

The number of Americans actively receiving state unemployment aid fell to 7.3m as of October 24, the lowest since mid-March. There were more than 21m people in all federal and state programmes, including benefits allocated for the self-employed, for the week that ended on October 17.

While job growth has decelerated in recent months, last month’s gains bring the labour market closer to pre-pandemic levels. Non-farm payrolls have risen by more than 12m since the start of May, after 22m people were put out of work during the height of coronavirus shutdowns.

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US government bond prices sold off sharply after the report, sending the yield on the benchmark 10-year note higher by 0.03 percentage points for the session to 0.798 per cent.

The ultra-long 30-year note yield rose 0.05 percentage points to 1.575 per cent. Meanwhile, the dollar index slipped 0.24 per cent, and S&P 500 futures pointed to a 0.7 per cent decline when trading opens in New York.

Via Financial Times