U.S. employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month as the coronavirus pandemic put new pressure on restaurants, retailers, and other businesses.

The Labor Department said Friday that employers added just 245,000 jobs in November, down from a revised 610,000 in October.

The job growth figure was well below expectations. Economists at Wells Fargo had expected the United States to add just 425,000 jobs in November, while other forecasts pointed to just under half a million.

The unemployment rate dipped to 6.7%, from 6.9% the month before, largely because 400,000 people dropped out of the workforce.

So far the U.S. has recovered 56% of the jobs that were lost in March and April, and payroll employment is still 9.8 million below its pre-pandemic levels.

The slowdown in job growth comes as new infections are surging and as Congress wrestles with whether to extend relief measures currently set to expire the day after Christmas.

This week, the United States set a record with more than 100,000 people hospitalized with the coronavirus. More than 200,000 new infections were diagnosed on Thursday, and nearly 3,000 people died that day from COVID-19.

Government restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus forced Cameron Mitchell to shutter nearly 20% of his restaurants last month and to furlough 700 workers. With customers increasingly nervous about eating out, Mitchell's remaining restaurants have suffered a steep drop in sales.

"Our managers are working for reduced pay. Our hourly people are not getting the hours they want or they're laid off," said Mitchell, who operates 55 restaurants in 13 states. "Our company is losing a million to $2 million a month. And we can't sustain for much longer at that pace."

Job listings at the website Glassdoor fell 2.5% between October and November. That was the first such decline since May, and the drop was widespread among different parts of the country and different sectors of the economy. Nationwide, bars and restaurants cut 17,000 jobs last month. The pandemic has taken a toll on other industries as well.

"That doesn't mean we've gone over the cliff yet," said Glassdoor's senior economist Daniel Zhao. "But there are definitely some warning signs flashing."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers this week that without federal help, state and local governments are likely to see additional job cuts in the months to come. The Census Bureau cut another 93,000 temporary workers in November as it wound down its once-a-decade head count. Local governments cut 21,000 jobs in education.

"State and local governments are one of the very largest employers in the country and they provide those critical services," Powell said. "That was a big part of the story in the slow recovery from the global financial crisis a decade ago."Congress has been discussing a possible extension of those benefits, but no agreement has been reached yet. The slowdown in hiring is especially worrisome for millions of Americans who are out of work and at risk of losing their financial lifeline later this month, when emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire.

The holiday shopping season typically creates job opportunities in retail. Zhao said this year, many of those jobs are in warehouses or as delivery drivers, as customers increasingly shift their gift-buying online.

The Labor Department report, which is adjusted for seasonal hiring patterns, shows a net loss of 35,000 retail jobs, but an increase of 145,000 jobs in transportation and warehousing.

While there are some openings in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, they may not be easily filled.

"Even in a time of high unemployment, workers are hesitant to return to in-person roles where the health risks might be higher," Zhao said.

"The good news is, we know recovery is on the way with the vaccines," said Mitchell, the restaurant operator. "We just need to get from here to there, and Congress needs to help provide that bridge."New vaccines offer hope that the pandemic could be tamed sometime next year, but widespread distribution of the shots is still months away.

A federal judge in New York has ordered that the Trump administration restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to its status before the Trump administration attempted to end it in September of 2017.

The program, known as DACA, has been in limbo since then, kept alive by the courts, but not open to new applicants. DACA allows young immigrants who are in the U.S. without legal status but were brought here as children to live and work in the country legally.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this past June that DACA may continue, but the Trump administration pushed back with new restrictions. In July, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf issued a memo refusing to accept new applicants, and forcing DACA recipients to renew once a year instead of every two years, as the program had worked.

Last month, a federal judge issued a ruling invalidating Wolf's memo, concluding that the acting Homeland Security secretary was not properly appointed and did not have the legal authority to make these changes.

Today's ruling directs Homeland Security to open the program to new applicants and restore the two-year renewal period for DACA protections and work permits. From the ruling:

DHS is DIRECTED to post a public notice, within 3 calendar days of this Order, to be displayed prominently on its website and on the websites of all other relevant agencies, that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA, renewal requests, and advance parole requests, based on the terms of the DACA program prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with this court's Memorandum & Order of November 14, 2020.

Luis Perez, director of legal services for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said Friday that it remains to be seen how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles DACA applications, will respond.

"My fear is, this is great news, but we still need to see whether USCIS listens to the order of this federal court to start taking initial applications because they've defied the Supreme Court when they were told to do so back in June."

This summer, after the Supreme Court ruling and before the Wolf memo was issued, the federal government did not provide guidance to would-be new applicants. Perez pointed out that there's also a pending legal challenge to DACA in Texas, where a hearing is set for later this month.

The Obama-era program, begun in 2012, protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, including an estimated 200,000 in California. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reinstate DACA in his immigration plan.

Friday’s big monthly U.S. payrolls report was a big disappointment, with roughly half the number of jobs created in November as we're forecast by economists in a Reuters poll.

FILE PHOTO: People line up outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claim in Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S. June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo/File Photo

But the troublesome signs for the labor market were hardly limited to the underwhelming headline number, which showed the weakest job growth since the recovery began from the swoon induced by the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.

Here are five worrying factors in the report:

HOUSEHOLD VS ESTABLISHMENT: WHO IS RIGHT?

The report is fueled by two surveys - one of U.S. businesses and one of the American households. The so-called “establishment” data on total employment from businesses is much less noisy than the household results, but more often than not the two at least move in the same direction.

In November they did not. Businesses reported adding 245,000 jobs last month, but households reported employment fell by 74,000. It was the first negative print in that series since the historic dive in employment in April.

Graphic: Who to believe - businesses or households? -

Reuters Graphic

LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION LAGGING

Some 400,000 fewer people reported being a member of the workforce in November, the third drop in the last five months.

One sign of a healthy labor market is a consistently growing labor force - those employed and those in the market for a job. After an initial bounce back in May and June, the labor force has moved sideways since and remains more than 4 million short of what it was before the pandemic struck.

Graphic: The labor force is not growing -

Reuters Graphic

MORE DISCOURAGED WORKERS

One reason people cite for dropping out of the work force is that they are too discouraged by the state of the job market to look for work. The ranks of these workers are back near the five-year high reached in July after having grown in November for the third straight month and by the most since June. Graphic: Discouraged worker ranks are rising again -

Reuters Graphic

PERMANENT JOB LOSSES RISING

When the pandemic first struck and triggered more than 20 million job losses in a single month back in April, the vast majority of those thrown out of work expected their layoffs to be temporary. That dynamic has changed.

In November, more than 4.7 million people were categorized as “not on temporary layoff” - meaning their job was permanently eliminated or they had completed a temporary job that was not extended. That is nearly 2 million more than those counted as being temporarily out of work and was the highest level in seven years.

Graphic: More layoffs are becoming permanent -

Reuters Graphic

UNEMPLOYMENT DURATION IS GROWING LONGER FOR MANY

In February, just before the coronavirus pandemic broadsided the economy and job market along with it, fewer than 20% of the 5.8 million people then counted as unemployed had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

Fast forward to November and nearly 37% of the 10.7 million jobless Americans had not worked in roughly half a year or longer. That percentage is the highest since December 2013.

Graphic: Long-term unemployment is a growing problem -

Reuters Graphic