Job Growth Weakened Nationally, but Few Cities Saw Losses Due to Census Hiring
Phoenix Led the Way in August Gains While D.C. Shed Jobs Since July
Census takers were hired locally to ensure every household was counted in neighborhoods across the country. (U.S. Department of Commerce)
By David Kahn and Sam Tenenbaum
The nation yet again saw a slowing in month-over-month job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest employment data for August.
To recap the national employment numbers, the United States added about 2.7 million jobs in May, 4.8 million in June, 1.7 million in July, and continued to slow to 1.4 million jobs added in August. However, Labor reports that 238,000 of the jobs added in August were temporary positions tied to the 2020 Census, artificially inflating the total employment gains for that month. Nevertheless, the national unemployment rate fell to 8.4%, the first time the unemployment rate fell into single digits since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mid-sized Sun Belt cities, many of which saw recoveries stall out in July, experienced new bumps in August. Phoenix, Arizona; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee, all saw job losses in July but were boosted by impressive gains in August.
Phoenix was one of the nation’s biggest COVID-19 hot spots in late June and July but has had success in controlling the spread of the virus since the start of August, according to CoStar’s Director of Market Analytics for Phoenix, Jessica Morin.
“The acceleration in job growth is, in part, due to the businesses that have reopened following a second wave of closures that temporarily shut down gyms, bars and water parks,” Morin said.
Predictably, Orlando, Florida, fell back to earth in August after leading the nation in job growth in July on the strength of Disney's reopening. However, Orlando still ranked in the top half of major metropolitan areas in terms of percentage job growth in August.
New York City continues to gain momentum as the Big Apple’s success in containing the virus is now paying economic dividends. New York’s roughly 2% job growth figure equates to about 120,000 jobs added in the month of August, by far the largest nominal gain in the country. With JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs recalling workers to the office this week, New York could stave off additional retail and apartment demand losses as workers return to the city.
Unlike in July, when 18 major areas experienced job losses, only two cities shed jobs in August: Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, Hawaii. This growth is mainly attributable to the impact of Census hiring throughout the country.
Three other markets, Los Angeles, California; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Saint Louis, Missouri; also would likely have seen job losses had government payrolls remained flat. Stamford, Connecticut, which ranked as second best for job gains in July, posted the third worst growth on a percentage basis in August. Other cities that flipped from leader to laggard between July and August include D.C., Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Salt Lake City, Saint Louis, Seattle and Baltimore.
Looking at the regions that have seen the fewest total losses on a percentage basis since February, Indianapolis is now the city closest to regaining all of its jobs lost during the pandemic.
After ranking sixth in employment growth in July and then second in August, employment in Indianapolis is only 1.4% below where it was in February, and is buoyed by a strong increase in construction employment, stability in the warehouse and distribution sector and resilience in office-using sectors such as financial services and professional and business services.
The worst performing areas remain those that were impacted by the first wave of the pandemic most acutely. Despite impressive recent gains, New York City still ranks as the second worst region in terms of total job losses since February.
Other laggards include tourism-dependent locales like Honolulu, New Orleans and Las Vegas, as well as west coast cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County.