Labor Department data on Friday morning is expected to show that employers continued to bring back furloughed workers last month but at a far slower pace than in the spring, and that millions of Americans remain out of work.
Economists surveyed by FactSet estimate that the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, down from 1.8 million in July and 4.8 million in June. That would leave payrolls more than 11 million jobs below their pre-pandemic level.
The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 9.8 percent, from 10.2 percent in July. While that rate would be below the peak in the last recession a decade ago, when unemployment briefly hit 10 percent, it would still be higher than in many other past recessions.
“Our worry is that the recovery is showing signs of stalling,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist for S&P Global. “We still have a long way to go.”
The report will provide some of the first clear data on the state of the economy as emergency federal spending winds down, including a $600 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits that helped keep many households afloat early in the pandemic.
But because the August jobs data was collected early in the month, it may not reflect the full impact of the loss of benefits, economists warn. That calendar quirk could have political ramifications: A relatively solid jobs report could ease pressure on Congress to agree on a new round of emergency spending.
Economists warn that would set the stage for a big drop in spending in the fall, leading to more job losses and a wave of small-business failures.
“I am more concerned about where the economy is now than I was in April,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist and labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative. “In April, it was fixable. We’re just letting the scars build up now.”
In March, when the Trump administration ordered up a study enabling the widespread release of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, one of the first questions the director of a government research agency that would oversee the trial asked was: “Who has talked with Oracle?”
The Silicon Valley powerhouse had already started to prepare to help with collecting data about the drug, and its founder, Larry Ellison, talked to President Trump about its possible use.
Some tech companies may have shied away from helping to test a drug that many medical experts said had potentially dangerous side effects and might not even work for Covid-19 cases. But Oracle, a business software giant founded in 1977, is a prominent ally of Mr. Trump, whose administration was invested in the drug’s use.
Oracle’s involvement in the planned drug study was its latest effort to aid the president and his administration. The company has also backed the administration’s trade plans and its positions on major tech policy issues, and its executives played roles in Mr. Trump’s transition team in 2016 and have backed his re-election campaign.
Now, as it tries to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, the viral social media app, its embrace of the administration could be helpful. Mr. Trump ordered the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the product, citing national security concerns, and his administration must bless any deal.
Mr. Trump has declined to say whether the company is a better suitor for the app than Microsoft, another major bidder. But he said last month that Oracle “would be certainly somebody that could handle it.” The negotiations hit a snag in recent days, after the Chinese government issued new export rules that seem to make a sale more complicated.