US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told Yahoo Finance on Friday that there was “no doubt” that the Delta variant had an impact on the disappointing August jobs report. Non-farm payrolls increased by 235,000 in August, well below the expected 733,000.
“One of the biggest areas of decline (…) from the last three employment reports was hospitality and recreation, and you can see a correlation with the Delta variant right there,” Walsh said.
The leisure and hospitality sector created no net jobs in August – with restaurants and bars losing 42,000 jobs. Retail trade also lost 29,000 jobs. Walsh told Yahoo Finance that while the United States continues to see an increase in variants, sectors heavily impacted by health issues and restrictions will continue to be of concern.
“There’s some sort of perfect storm brewing here that’s caused this problem – and we also need the perfect storm to keep coming out of it,” Walsh said. “We’re investing in places that need to be done and we just need to keep getting people vaccinated… I think we’ll make a full recovery. It’s just a matter of, we don’t know what the schedule is.”
The slowdown in job growth comes as improved unemployment benefits expire on September 6 – leaving millions of Americans on the verge of losing their benefits. The Biden administration has said states can use previous stimulus funds to extend additional unemployment assistance after programs expire, but it doesn’t look like any state is likely to do so on Friday. Twenty-six have already ended the enhanced benefits earlier.
When asked what needs to be done to help these unemployed people amid the wave of Delta variants, Walsh said he believes restarting schools will help many parents get back to work.
“There is no manual on how to get out of a pandemic, so we just need to keep focusing on how we continue to support our businesses and help our workers re-enter the workforce,” Walsh said.
The Biden administration is also pushing Congress to send the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a multibillion-dollar reconciliation package to the president’s office. But a divide between moderates and progressives within the Democratic Party threatens the reconciliation plan, which will invest billions of billions in social programs and climate change measures.
Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) called for a “pause” on reconciliation legislation in an op-ed this week.
“Personally, I don’t think we should take a break. I think we should keep moving forward,” Walsh said. “As we think about coming out of the pandemic, as we think about rebuilding better, as we think about winning America’s future – we need to invest now, not only to build a bridge, but also to build a bridge. to get people to work.
Jessica smith is chief political correspondent for Yahoo Finance, based in Washington, DC Follow her on Twitter at @ JessicaASmith8.