The U.S. added 199,000 jobs in December, well below analysts’ expectations. While today’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report captures hiring activity that primarily occurred before the COVID-19 Omicron variant spread rapidly later in December, it still reflects resilience in the rapidly recovering labor market. For the full year, the U.S. economy added 6.4 million more jobs than at the end of 2020 — more than any year on record.
Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and manufacturing. The unemployment rate declined 0.3 percentage point to 3.9 percent in December.
The labor force participation rate data remained flat versus the prior month at 61.8 percent in December.
The percent of nonfarm workers reporting that they teleworked at some point in the past four weeks was slightly lower at 11.1 percent, continuing a multi-month decline.
“Today’s BLS numbers show ongoing growth in job creation in most sectors of the U.S. employment market despite the challenges of the latest COVID-19 cycle. Our MRINetwork of over 300 search firms and more than 1,500 recruitment professionals continue to see record growth in assignments to place executive, technical, professional and managerial talent within our portfolio of clients ranging from small local firms to large multinationals,” said Bert Miller, President and CEO of MRI.
“This marks my third New Year’s Day as the leader of our almost 60-year-old Network, and I have never been as confident about the fundamental forces driving the search for talent among our clients. There is no better feeling in the world than being on a team of staffing advisors rowing in the same direction with relentless energy and focus as we improve our clients hiring brand, culture and core values with the top talent needed to transform their organizations.”
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Sarah Chaney Cambon notes, “[Virus driven] employee absences will likely hurt production and slow services without leading to widespread layoffs. Many economists expect employers to remain in hiring mode because they still have roles to fill amid strong consumer demand. Job openings are historically high, providing a bounty of opportunities for workers who are without work or seeking extra cash.”
Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, suggests that two critical factors are at play in this month’s job growth data. To him, the numbers “suggest that worker shortages were becoming a bigger restraint on employment growth, even before the Omicron surge in infections, which could knock hundreds of thousands off payrolls in January.”
Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to trend up in December (+53,000). Employment in food services and drinking places rose by 43,000 in December but is down by 653,000 since February 2020.
Employment in professional and business services continued its upward trend in December (+43,000). Over the month, job gains occurred in computer systems design and related services (+10,000), in architectural and engineering services (+9,000), and in scientific research and development services (+6,000).
Manufacturing added 26,000 jobs in December, primarily in durable goods industries. A job gain in machinery (+8,000) reflected the return of workers from a strike.
Construction employment rose by 22,000 in December, following monthly gains averaging 38,000 over the prior three months.
Employment in transportation and warehousing increased by 19,000 in December. Job gains occurred in support activities for transportation (+7,000), in air transportation (+6,000), and in warehousing and storage (+5,000).
In December, employment showed little or no change in wholesale trade, mining, retail trade, financial, healthcare and government.
“2022 is not 2020 ‘too’, don’t let it feel like Groundhog Day. It is a brand-new year that the best organizations will leverage to separate from their competition as we start to see the winners emerge. We counsel our clients to make purposeful and intentional commitment in investing in people. The true winners provide a clear mission and north star that are built on a values-driven foundation and yes, within organizations that pay for the best talent,” noted Miller.
“Individuals have more control of their career than ever before. They seek companies that align with their scorecards and have the long game in mind. The world of work has only accelerated to where it was already headed, we just got here ten years early.”