US employers added 199,000 jobs in December 2021, with the unemployment rate falling by 0.3 percentage point to 3.9 percent, the Labour Department reported.
The job growth is far be- low the expectations of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal, which estimated a job gain of 422,000 jobs. It also represented the smallest monthly gain in a year, reports xinhua news agency.
Employment continued to trend up in sectors like leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing, said the Department report released on Friday.
The latest data also showed that the unemploy- ment rate fell by 0.3 percentage point to 3.9 percent in December, after dropping by 0.4 percentage point in November. The measure was down considerably from its recent high in April 2020, but remained above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5 per cent.
As of December last year, US non-farm employment has increased by 18.8 million since April 2020 but is still 3.6 million, or 2.3 percent below its pre-pandemic level, according to the report.
The number of unemployed persons declined by 483,000 to 6.3 million, the report showed, adding that the measure also remained above the pre-pandemic level of 5.7 million.
Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers declined by 202,000 to 1.7 million in December but is 408,000 higher than in February 2020. The number of persons on temporary layoff, at 812,000, has essentially returned to its February 2020 level, according to the report.
The labour force participation rate was unchanged at 61.9 percent in December but remains 1.5 percentage points lower than the pre pandemic level, the report showed. Over the year, the measure has increased by 0.4 percentage point.
The report came two days after the payroll data company Automatic Data Processing (ADP) reported that private companies had added 807,000 jobs in December. On Thursday, the Labour Department reported that initial jobless claims in the US last week rose to 207,000 amid the Omicron variant surge, signalling that the new Covid variant is a headwind facing the labour market recovery.
Labour force participation, however, is unlikely to return to its pre-pandemic level as some workers have permanently left the workforce during the pan demic to retire.