While U.S. employers added 943,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent indicating that the nation's economy is rebounding from the pandemic-related downturn, there is growing trepidation that the delta variant could set back the improving economic situation, according to the Associated Press.
The concern is that the resurgent virus could deter individuals from heading out and spending and could lead to new shutdowns or restrictions, according to the outlet.
"The risk is from a more cautious consumer, if they don't want to engage in outside activities. ... You're also hearing about big companies that are delaying a return to work," Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said, according to the AP. "That might be something that slows things down.''
The AP noted that the Labor Department amassed data for the report in mid-July prior to when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last week recommending that people who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus should wear masks in indoor public places in areas of the U.S. with substantial or high virus transmission.
The 5.4 unemployment rate marked a drop from 5.9 percent in June.
The nation's economy took a nosedive last year, shedding more than 22 million jobs in March and April of 2020, but the country has since recouped almost 17 million jobs, the outlet reported.
"If the pace of hiring over the last three months continues, all jobs lost due to the pandemic would be regained in seven months," senior economist at TD Economics Leslie Preston wrote in a research report, according to AP. "However, the pace is likely to cool a bit and the risk of the delta variant looms."
The Associated Press reported: "The U.S. is seeing an average of more than 98,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from fewer than 12,000 a day in late June — though still well below the peak of 250,000 reached in January. The vast majority of new cases are among people who have not gotten vaccinated."
The outlet pointed out that if the COVID-19 surge is not contained, there could be closures and event cancellations, and schools could backpedal on plans for reopening which would make it harder for some parents to return to work.
"The next 10 to 14 days are going to be critical to try to get it under control," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said, the AP reported. "We need to get more people vaccinated. Where there are mask mandates in place, we need to follow that."
"It's really important that we take this seriously so we don't get into a situation where we have to go into shutting down parts of our country," he noted.