The U.S. added 199,000 new jobs in December, the Labor Department announced on Friday, falling short of economists’ expectations of 422,00 new jobs.
December saw the fewest new hires of any month in 2021, although the unemployment rate fell to a pandemic low of 3.9 percent.
The Labor Department noted that “among those not in the labor force in December, 1.1 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, little changed from November.” The latest job numbers reflect hiring prior to the spread of the Omicron Covid variant in late December, which has caused a sharp uptick in cases across the U.S.
“I think Omicron will slow hiring in January,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, a payroll processing company, told the New York Times. “It might hit in early February as well.”
The U.S. added 6.4 million jobs in all of 2021, the highest total on record. However, the economy is still 3.6 million jobs short of employment levels in February 2020, just before the Covid pandemic caused widespread work shutdowns.
Various sectors recorded modest job gains in December, including leisure and hospitality with 53,000 new jobs, manufacturing with 26,000 new jobs, and professional services with 43,000 jobs added, according to the Labor Department.
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