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Economist looks at jobless rate

by Special to The Commercial | November 9, 2020 at 4:02 a.m.
People wait in line to file for unemployment Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Little Rock office of the state Division of Workforce Services. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

The nation's unemployment level continued to fall sharply from its April pandemic peak, clocking in at 6.9% in October, according to the Employment Situation report for October from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"September's national unemployment rate was 7.9%, and expectations were for a further decline of just a couple of tenths of a percent going into October," John Anderson said in a news release. "The unemployment rate actually declined by a full percentage point in October and now stands at 6.9%."

Anderson is an agricultural economist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and head of the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Department for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences.

"While the unemployment rate remains high relative to its pre-pandemic level, which hit a remarkable low of 3.5% in February 2020, it is down sharply from the postwar record levels posted during the pandemic lockdowns," he said.

The largest gains were in the services sector. Employment in this sector grew by 783,000 jobs in October, a slightly slower expansion than the 795,000 recorded in September.

"Food service jobs increased by almost 200,000 -- the largest gain of any individual sector reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics," he said. "This confirms the ongoing recovery in this particularly hard-hit sector of the economy, but food service employment remains about 2 million jobs below last year's level."

Job gains in the goods-producing sector were higher in October than in either September or August. Government employment continued to contract in October, declining by 268,000 jobs and partially offsetting the relatively strong growth in private sector jobs. Government employment contracted at every level: federal, state and local.

See Anderson's analysis at Find other covid-related economic analyses at


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