By Nathalie Voit

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed widespread job growth and notable gains in key industries as the labor market recovered from its summer lull. According to the BLS October Jobs Report, the economy added 531,000 jobs last month, decreasing the unemployment rate to 4.6% from the 4.8% recorded in September. October job gains were the strongest in the past three months.

Hiring was driven by growth in core industries like leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing. 

Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry saw the strongest gains in October, adding 164,000 jobs for a total of 2.4 million in 2021. The leisure and hospitality industry was one of the industries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns essentially banned tourism and forced hotels and restaurants to shut down. As the country slowly reopens, employers are scrambling to hire enough workers to meet renewed demand. 

The professional services industry also added 100,000 jobs in October as employment in temporary help positions (+41,000) and management and consulting services (+14,000) continued to rise.

Following professional services, employment in manufacturing increased by 60,000, driven by a gain in motor vehicles and parts (+28,000).

Employment in transportation and warehousing saw the fourth largest gains, adding 54,000 private payrolls in October. Storage and distribution services is the only industry with current employment above pre-pandemic levels.

Average hourly earnings for all workers rose by 11 cents to $30.96, fueled by gains from the past six months. Meanwhile, the average workweek declined by 0.1 to 34.7 hours, the data revealed.

The promising jobs report comes amid modest upward revisions for the months of August and September. According to the report, total nonfarm payroll employment in August and September was 235,000 greater than previously thought. Nevertheless, employment is still 4.2 million, or 2.8%, short of its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Despite adding 104,000 people, the labor force participation rate sits around 61.6%, the lowest participation rate since the 1970s. The latest jobs report reveals the labor market remains persistently short of workers but is stronger than analysts previously thought. 

“While the strength of employment was an encouraging sign that labor demand remains strong, labor supply remains very weak,” said senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics Michael Pearce. “We’re increasingly convinced that the fall in participation since the beginning of the pandemic will prove permanent.”