US Adds 467,000 Jobs in January Despite Omicron Surge

The U.S. added more jobs than expected in January despite surging Omicron cases across the country.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate edged higher to 4% from 3.9% in December, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. This is up from a Dow Jones estimate that saw payroll growth of 150,000 jobs and a 3.9% unemployment rate in January.

Employment growth was seen in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail and transportation and warehousing in January.

Retail trade employment rose by 61,000 jobs in January. Growth occurred in general merchandise stores (+29,000); health and personal care stores (+11,000); sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (+7,000); and building material and garden supply stores (+6,000). Retail employment is 61,000 above its level in February 2020.

As for wages, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 23 cents to $31.63 in January. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.7%. In January, average hourly earnings of private sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 17 cents to $26.92.

Despite these gains, COVID did impact the labor market significantly in January.

The government said 6 million people reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic. The report noted that these individuals reported that they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the four weeks preceding the survey due to the pandemic.

This measure is considerably higher than the level of 3.1 million in December. Among those who reported in January that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 23.7% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, up from the prior month.

January’s report also showed that hiring was much stronger at the end of 2021 than originally reported, as new revisions set previous months considerably higher.

December, which initially was reported as a gain of 199,000 jobs, went up to 510,000 jobs. November surged to 647,000 jobs from the previous reported 249,000 jobs. The revisions came as part of the annual adjustments from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that saw sizable changes for many of the months in 2021.

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