(Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she still expects the U.S. economy to return to full employment “next year,” even after a slowdown in the pace of hiring.

“The labor market in many ways is very tight,” Yellen said in an interview with MSNBC television that aired Wednesday morning, adding that the economy is still recovering from the pandemic, which she described as “a very, very unusual shock.”

The U.S. labor force has made major steps in 2021, though the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus has slowed that progress. Employment reports for August and September came in well below economists’ estimates.

The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 4.8%, compared to 3.5% just before the pandemic struck, with some of that decline explained by thousands of Americans departing the workforce -- in part thanks to those opting for early retirement. 

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