Jobs report will show how much pandemic is squeezing hiring

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Friday's monthly U.S. jobs report is expected to show a continued slowing in the number of workers being added to payrolls.

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Economists surveyed by the data provider Refinitiv have forecast that employers added 469,000 jobs in November, down from 638,000 in October. It would be a fifth straight month of decreasing gains.

The unemployment rate is projected to drop one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.8%.

The Labor Department will issue the November jobs report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

A loss of momentum in hiring would weaken the economy at a particularly perilous time. A multi-trillion-dollar aid package that Congress approved in the spring to ease the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic has largely run its course. Two enhanced unemployment benefit programs are set to expire at the end of this month.

The end of those programs would leave an estimated 9 million people without any jobless aid, state or federal.

U.S. deaths from the coronavirus topped 3,100 Wednesday, a new daily high, with more than 100,000 Americans hospitalized with the disease, also a record, and new confirmed daily cases topping 200,000.

So far, the economy has regained only about 12 million of the 22 million jobs that were shed in March and April after the virus struck. Hiring has slowed for four straight months.

The latest jobless claims figures from the Labor Department show that 712,000 workers sought aid last week, about three times the pre-crisis level. Still, it's well below the peak of nearly 7 million in late March, when states first implemented lockdown measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Economists surveyed by Refinitiv expected 775,000 new claims. It marked a decrease from the upwardly revised figure of 787,000 one week ago.

Private employers hired at a slower-than-expected pace in November, according to the ADP National Employment Report released Wednesday.

The report showed that companies created 307,000 new jobs last month, sharply missing the 410,000-job increase that economists surveyed by Refinitiv had predicted.

Most economists, along with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, have called on Congress to approve another stimulus package to carry the economy into the spring, until a vaccine is widely distributed that would allow economic activity to start returning to normal.

For now, there are signs that the economic recovery is stumbling. Consumer spending grew in October at the slowest pace in six months. Seated diners at restaurants are declining again, according to data from the reservations website OpenTable. And a Fed report on business conditions found that growth cooled last month in several Midwest regions and in the Fed's Philadelphia district.

Still, the full impact of the worsening pandemic may not be evident in Friday's jobs report, which measures hiring trends in the middle of the month. Some state restrictions weren't imposed until later in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.