HOUSTON - After months of growth, the economy added a disappointing number of new jobs, in August, where the three previous months saw employers add an average of 875,000 thousand new jobs, the latest report from the Labor Department shows just 235,000 new jobs; about a third of what was expected.
While headlines are blaming a surging pandemic, the explanation might be more complicated. The service sector was most notable, in the report.
Leisure and hospitality didn't budge, while retailers cut jobs, as COVID restrictions are renewed and the number of diners, travelers, and shoppers, tapers off.
In Houston, the Greater Houston Partnership's chief economist a researcher, Patrick Jankowski, says the city's challenges started long before the pandemic.
"Houston's economy is definitely lagging behind the rest of the U.S.," he says.
As fossil-fuel prices struggled, energy companies and those that support them faced pressure, which helped empty millions of square feet of the city's office space.
While the country has recovered three-quarters of the jobs lost to COVID, Houston has reclaimed just over half.
"That's where the challenge is: navigating this transition," says Jankowski, "(That's) why it's going to take a while to get Houston back to where we were in February 2020."
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It may not be a quick fix for the country, either. After $5 trillion dollars in COVID-19 stimulus money was pumped into the economy, the resulting 'growth' is tapering-off, as a lot of consumers don't have any more to spend.
"They were given money to spend," says RIA Advisors financial strategist Lance Roberts, "They spent that money; wages haven't kept up with the inflationary pressures in the economy; food costs are up, gasoline costs are up, rent is up; that's costing more money for people to live."
The national unemployment rate dropped to 5.2%, in the August report, largely because of people 'leaving' the workforce. Wages, meantime, climbed 0.6%, which was better than expected.
Meantime, in Houston, the struggle may continue. Patrick Jankowski thinks the city is still a couple of years away from replacing the jobs that were lost.