Stocks also slipped ahead of the US jobs report and amid release of election results
WASHINGTON -- U.S. employers added 638,000 jobs in October, a solid pace though far fewer than needed to regain most of the jobs lost to the pandemic recession just as new viral cases are setting record highs.
The gain suggested that a tentative economic recovery may remain intact even in the face of a surging viral outbreak.
The report Friday from the Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 7.9% in September. But eight months after the virus struck the United States, the economy still has recovered barely half the 22 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic.
The job market and the overall economy are under intense pressure from the accelerating pandemic. On Thursday, the nation broke another record in the seven-day rolling average for new cases, hitting nearly 90,000. Daily new cases were also on track for another day above 100,000, with surging numbers reported all around the country, including a combined nearly 25,000 in Texas, Illinois and Florida.
The economy, which had rebounded sharply in the July-September quarter as businesses reopened from virus-related shutdowns, is now expanding more slowly. Many businesses, especially restaurants and bars that had made use of outdoor seating, face a dim future as the weather turns colder. Consumers may also pull back again on shopping, traveling and other activities to avoid contracting the virus.
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Global stock markets turned lower on Friday ahead of a U.S. jobs report and amid protracted vote-counting following this week's American elections.
Dow and S&P 500 futures were down 0.8% and 0.9%, while European indexes traded lower. Asian markets mostly close higher.
Markets have risen this week as investors bet on control of the U.S. Congress being split between Republicans and Democrats, which could mean low taxes and light regulation that investors like will stay in place.
"I find it remarkable how relaxed these markets are under the circumstances," said Craig Erlam of Oanda in a report. "Hopefully, the faith investors have shown is rewarded, because the last thing we need is an extremely messy conclusion to what has already been a hostile and divisive election."
Joe Biden leads in vote counting for Tuesday's U.S. presidential election, but President Donald Trump and his supporters are questioning the legitimacy of the totals with key states still counting ballots.
"Markets are still betting on a clear election outcome (presumably Biden)," analyst at Mizuho Bank said in a report.
Analysts warn that an extended court battle with no clear winner could increase uncertainty, which markets dislike, and drag down stocks.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Federal Reserve said its key interest rate will be left at a record low near zero. It reaffirmed its readiness to do more to support the economy under threat from a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.09 to $37.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 36 cents on Thursday. Brent crude, the international price standard, declined $1 to $39.93 per barrel in London. It shed 30 cents the previous session.
The dollar declined to 103.36 yen from Thursday's 103.51. The euro rose to $1.1878 from $1.1838.