U.S. Economy Adds 199,000 Jobs in December 2021
December 2021 US job report

U.S. Economy Adds 199,000 Jobs in December 2021

When the ball dropped on 2021, the United States found itself holding a bit of a mixed bag. While there was reason to be optimistic and believe that 2022 will be better than its predecessor overall, a new twist in the pandemic threw a wrench in the plans of many. Now, a look at the current economy and job market is also decidedly mixed, simultaneously offering points of disappointment and light.

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy added 199,000 jobs in the last month of 2021. Unfortunately, that’s well below the more than 400,000 jobs that economists had anticipated. Moreover, the results diverge greatly from the recently-released ADP Employment Report that showed an increase of 807,000 private-sector jobs last month.

While the number of jobs added fell short of expectations, the unemployment rate fell to a pandemic-era low of 3.9%. That’s down from 4.2% in November and is far improved from the 6.7% rate observed in December 2020. With the latest improvement, the unemployment rate continues to near the 3.5% it sat at before the pandemic swept the United States. Meanwhile, with the latest update, the economy still has 3.6 million fewer jobs than it did in February 2020.

Looking specifically at how the ongoing pandemic impacted this month’s results, BLS commissioner William W. Beach notes that the number of people who reported being unable to work due to their employer closing or being forced to cut their hours fell to 3.1 million in December — down 539,000 from the previous month. Meanwhile, 1.1 million people said they were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, which was in line with November’s results. However, it should be noted that the timeframe covered by this report may not account for the full impact of the omicron variant, which has brought upon COVID case surges in many parts of the country.

Turning to what to expect from January’s report, there are some unique aspects at play. Beyond the aforementioned omicron variant disrupting operations, worker shortages could lead to some bucking of trends typically seen at the beginning of the year. As Wells Fargo economist Sarah House explained to CNN Business, “January is [traditionally] the biggest month for layoffs, but because businesses have had such a hard time getting workers, you won’t see as many.”

Overall, while useful, these monthly jobs reports have rarely been able to illustrate the whole story — and this has been especially true during the pandemic. Sure enough, this December report is complicated in a number of ways at a time when Americans are anxious for normalcy. Alas, given all that’s occurred since New Years Day, January’s report could prove to be even more confusing. Stay tuned.

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