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The Morning Dispatch: A Big Slowdown in Job Growth
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The Morning Dispatch: A Big Slowdown in Job Growth

Transportation and warehousing account for the bulk of new hires in November, while retail and restaurant workers have taken a hit.

Happy Monday! Clear your calendars for tomorrow night, because Dispatch Live is back! Join Steve, Jonah, David, and Sarah Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET for a conversation about the post-election chaos, life after Trump, and Biden’s Cabinet picks thus far. Details are here, we hope to “see” you there!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, a sharp drop from the 610,000 added in October. The nation’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent, in part because of decreased labor force participation. Of the 22 million jobs lost in the early weeks of the pandemic, about 12 million have been regained.

  • President-elect Joe Biden has begun putting together his health care team, reportedly selecting California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Massachusetts General Hospital infectious diseases chief Rochelle Walensky to head up the CDC, Obama administration Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to serve in that position again, and Obama administration official Jeff Zients as the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator.

  • The House of Representatives voted 228-164 on Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge some federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses, and institute a 5 percent excise tax on the drug. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is almost assuredly not going to pass.

  • A federal judge instructed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to resume the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply to the program for the first time since 2017. The ruling could result in hundreds of thousands of new applications.

  • The Pentagon announced that President Trump ordered the drawdown of a “majority” of U.S. forces in Somalia by early 2021, but many of those troops will reportedly be redeployed to neighboring Kenya. The Pentagon noted it “will retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland.”

  • Trump reportedly contacted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over the weekend in an effort to persuade him to call a special session of the state legislature to overturn the election results. Sources say that Kemp declined the president’s request.

  • Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, tested positive for COVID-19, Trump announced on Twitter. Giuliani said he’s “getting great care and feeling good.” The Arizona Senate and House of Representatives will be closed this week as a precaution, after Giuliani visited the state and met with several members in recent days.

  • The United States confirmed 174,693 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday per the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, with 10.7 percent of the 1,634,532 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 1,102 deaths were attributed to the virus on Sunday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 282,236. According to the COVID Tracking Project, 101,487 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

November’s Not-So-Promising Jobs Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the U.S. economy added 245,000 nonfarm jobs in November, far below the 610,000 new hires employers added to their payrolls in October.

Despite this massive slowdown in job growth, the unemployment rate still fell slightly to 6.7 percent in November, down 0.2 percentage points from the month before. “The unemployment rate right now is still lower than it was during pretty much all of Obama’s first term,” Manhattan Institute senior fellow Brian Riedl, who has worked as an economist for Republicans Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney, told The Dispatch. “So it’s really a miracle that the unemployment rate is below 7 percent, given what a shock to the economy we’ve had this year. It could have been so much worse.”

Part of that decrease, however, can be attributed to some Americans giving up on looking for jobs entirely. The labor force participation rate is down approximately 2 percentage points since the onset of the pandemic, and the phenomenon is affecting women with school-aged children the most. The number of Americans working plunged from 152.5 million in February to 130.3 million in April; we’ve regained 12 of those 22 million jobs in the seven months since.

President-elect Joe Biden called November’s jobs report “grim” in a statement on Friday, saying it “confirms we remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history.” But not all sectors of the economy are hurting equally.

The transportation and warehousing industries, for example, constituted the bulk of November’s new hires, collectively adding 145,ooo new jobs last month. Online shopping has seen explosive growth this year as more Americans are staying (and working from) home, and with that comes demand for workers in those related sectors.

But other industries are still flailing. The retail sector, for example, lost 35,000 jobs last month, reflecting a plunge in seasonal hiring due to the pandemic. Restaurants and bars also cut another 17,000 jobs in November. The vaccines brought about by Operation Warp Speed will alleviate some of the strain on these industries in due time, but realistically speaking, inoculation won’t be widely available to the general public until late spring 2021. And with the cold winter months bearing down on us and limiting the ability of businesses to move outside, we should expect thousands of struggling bartenders, waitresses, and cashiers to continue filing for unemployment.

The jobs report sparked renewed calls among Republicans and Democrats to swiftly pass the $908 billion economic relief package proposed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers early last week, which calls for $300 billion in enhanced federal unemployment benefits, $160 billion for local and state governments, and $288 billion in aid to small businesses. The proposed bill does not include a second round of stimulus checks.

November’s slowing job growth had virtually no impact on Wall Street, with the stock market experiencing its best month since 1987and the Dow Jones Industrial Average topping 30,000 for the first time. Low interest rates and investors’ anticipation of a swift economic recovery post-vaccine are keeping the stock market on an upward trajectory.

Still, the unemployment rate is 3.2 percentage points higher than it was in February, and the economy has 10 million more jobs to add just to return to pre-pandemic levels. At the current trajectory, it could take until the end of 2023 to get back to where we were in February.

Biden’s newly announced team of economic advisers is expected to hit the ground running in January with a flurry of aggressive fiscal stimulus proposals. They’re experienced, smart people, Riedl argued, who “know how to pull the levers of government.” But are they equipped to pull us out of this recession? “Ultimately, if they push stimulus bills in the $1, 2, 3 trillion range, I think that’s going to inflate the debt without particularly helping the economy very much.”

Worth Your Time

  • Even as Americans begin to see an approaching end to the pandemic with the rollout of vaccinations, Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for homeland security, reminds us to check our expectations and exercise patience. As the United States government undertakes the bulk delivery of vaccine doses, prioritizing health care workers and seniors in long-term-care facilities, complications and controversy along the way are inevitable. “Even good planning may not survive contact with reality. Trucks will break down. Vaccine batches will be recalled,” Kayyem writes for The Atlantic. “This is the month when the pandemic began to end, but until the middle of next year or longer, Americans need to get used to the split screen—and to a series of mixed messages.”

  • Americans look back at the postwar era as an embodiment of a national norm, when confidence in institutions to function honestly and efficiently allowed for successful governance. “But what we thought was confidence was in fact hubris,” writes Kevin D. Williamson in his latest for National Review. “We aren’t going to revert to the middle of the 20th century. In some ways, we are reverting to the middle of the 19th century: populism and agrarian agitation, bitterly partisan media, some pretty terrible ideas about monetary policy, the political weaponization of antitrust law and federal regulation, raging sectional divides,” he argues. “And, in many ways, that ugliness and disruption—and not the brief liberal consensus of the postwar years—is normal: the real normal, the normal normal.”

  • The coronavirus has many Americans planning to hunker down for the holidays, but others are going forward with travel and gatherings to spend time with friends and family. Pediatrician Aaron Carroll’s advice: Refrain from scolding those people. While shaming others for their behavior during the pandemic may be personally satisfying, it’s counterproductive from a moral and public health standpoint. “The focus on blame is unhelpful, because what really matters is that people do as much as they reasonably can to prevent the spread of the disease, not that everyone adhere to the same set of rigid standards,” Carroll writes. “I understand that Covid-19 shaming is rooted in frustration. We’re angry about our inability to get a handle on the pandemic. But in our quest to scold and lay blame, even when we’re publicly calling out truly bad actors, we’re just making ourselves feel superior, which only makes it harder to achieve the solidarity needed for shared sacrifice.”

  • In his latest for the New York Times, Ross Douthat endeavors to compile a taxonomy of unexpected believers in the “stolen election” conspiracy theory, looking beyond the “Trumpy or super-partisan” likely suspects. Among them, he writes, are the “conspiracy-curious normie,” the “outsider-intellectual,” and the “recently radicalized”—each contributing to the shocking scale of belief among conservatives that forces conspired to rig the election in favor of Biden. “The voter-fraud narrative is being deployed, often by people more cynical than the groups I’ve just described, to help an outgoing president—one who twice lost the popular vote and displayed gross incompetence in the face of his administration’s greatest challenge—stake a permanent claim to the leadership of his party and establish himself as the presumptive Republican nominee in 2024,” Douthat writes. “And it’s being used to push aside the more compelling narrative that the Republican Party could take away from 2020, which is that Trump’s presidency demonstrated that populism can provide a foundation for conservatism, but to build on it the right needs a very different leader than the man Joe Biden just defeated.”

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Toeing the Company Line

  • Friday’s G-File takes aim at the fiasco unfolding for Georgia Republicans. If Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue lose their runoff elections, Jonah argues, many on the right will have no one to blame but themselves. “For a lot of otherwise decent politicians and commentators, doing the right thing was just too damn hard,” he writes. “At every stage, they fed the Trumpian alligator another piece of themselves and said ‘This much, but no more.’ But now all that is left are stumps, and it’s hard to walk in the right direction on stumps or hold your hands up to shout, ‘Stop!’ when you have no hands.”

  • David’s Sunday French Press delves into the many prominent Christian leaders who have fallen from grace in recent months, including most recently Hillsong East Coast’s lead pastor Carl Lenz. Celebrity is corrupting, David writes, and spiritual authority is particularly susceptible to abuse. “Christian leaders of integrity are … typically keenly aware of the unique dangers of spiritual connection and spiritual authority. Spiritual connection with a person can be especially intimate. Spiritual authority is particularly easy to abuse.”

  • Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling joined Steve and Sarah on Friday’s episode of The Dispatch Podcast to debunk popular voter fraud myths about his state’s election. 

Let Us Know

What are you hoping to hear the Dispatch Live gang discuss tomorrow night?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).