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US labour market improvement continues but there is still a long way to go

On September 4, 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – August 2020 – which shows that while employment continued to grow, the rebound has moderated. All the major aggregates are heading in the right direction. Employment is up, participation is up, the labour force is recovering and the unemployment rate and broader measures of labour underutilisation are falling. The problem facing the US is that the lack of economic support from the Federal government means that the huge pool of unemployment will take years to reduce and the damage will accumulate. How far the recovery can go depends on two factors, both of which are biased negatively: (a) How many firms have gone broke in the lockdown? (b) Whether the US states will have to reverse their lockdown easing in the face of a rapid escalation of the virus in some of the more populace states. I do not see appropriate policy responses in place at present. From abroad, it looks like the US government is stepping back when it should be engaging in supporting all incomes and introducing large-scale job creation programs.

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