US jobs growth slows

Hiring in the US slowed last month, as firms struggled to hire workers and continued to grapple with the effects of coronavirus.

 

Employers hired just 199,000 people in December, a second month of weaker than expected gains.

 

But the jobless rate dropped sharply to 3.9% and wages rose, the Labor Department said.

 

The mixed data, which was collected before Omicron’s full force was felt, follows a record year of jobs growth.

 

“For a second straight month, we have conflicting pictures emerging,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “This report appears to reflect the state of play before the worst impacts of the Omicron variant hit the economy.”

 

“We will have to wait until the following report, covering the job market picture in January, to get a clearer picture,” he added.

 

The US added more than 6.4 million jobs in 2021, regaining many of the positions lost at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

 

Though total employment remains about 3.6 million lower than its pre-pandemic level – and far lower than it would have been if Covid had not struck – many signs point to a strong economy.

 

A record 4.5 million Americans quit jobs in November – a sign of confidence in the labour market – and more than 10 million positions stand open, the government reported this week. Jobless claims have dropped to a near 50-year low.

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