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Jobs Growth Continues in December, But at Slower Pace Than Expected

  • Jobs gains continue steady growth but proceed slower than expected in December, adding 199,000 positions
  • Leisure and hospitality continues to drive growth, but remains 2.1 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels
  • Unemployment rate falls 0.3 points to 3.9 percent

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Jobs growth remained steady at the end of 2021 but was proceeding considerably slower than expected by economists.

The United States economy added 199,000 jobs in December, following upwardly revised tallies of 648,000 in October and 249,000 in November. Job growth averaged 537,000 in 2021.

December’s figure was less than half of what was anticipated by economists, and well below the 807,000 private payroll jobs reported earlier this week by ADP. The data reflects a brief lull between the spread of COVID-19 variants, when the Delta variant was waning and the Omicron variant was starting to spread.

Non-farm employment is up 18.8 million since April 2020. However, it remains 3.6 million (2.3 percent) below pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

  • The leisure and hospitality sector again led jobs gains, adding 53,000 positions in December; this sector added 2.6 million jobs in 2021 but remains 2.1 million jobs short of pre-pandemic totals
  • Food services and drinking places accounted for 43,000 new jobs in December, though this industry is down 653,000 from February 2020
  • Other jobs gains occurred in professional and business services (43,000), manufacturing (26,000), and construction (22,000)
  • Several sectors showed no significant change in employment, including retail, information, financial activities, and health care
  • The unemployment rate fell 0.3 points to 3.9 percent, with the total number of unemployed people falling 483,000 to 6.3 million; before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent and 5.7 million people were unemployed
  • The report reflected strong wage gains as companies compete for labor, with average earnings increasing 4.7 percent over the past 12 months; average hourly earnings were up 19 cents in December to $31.31

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