U.S. hiring downshifted abruptly in August with the smallest jobs gain in seven months, complicating a potential decision by the Federal Reserve to begin scaling back monetary support by year-end.

Non-farm payrolls increased 235,000 last month, trailing all forecasts, after an upwardly revised 1.05 million jobs gain in July, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists had projected that non-farm payrolls would increase by 733,000 in August. Employment in leisure and hospitality, which has posted strong gains recently, was flat last month amid the spreading delta variant and persistent hiring challenges.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell from 5.4 percent to 5.2 percent. Unemployment fell for every major demographic group except Black Americans, which saw a pickup to 8.8 percent.

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