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2022 Is Off to A Good Start As US Unemployment Sinks to New Low Amid Continuing Pandemic

2022 Is Off to A Good Start As US Unemployment Sinks to New Low Amid Continuing Pandemic

 

The nation’s unemployment rate fell in December to a pandemic low of 3.9% as employers added 199,000 new jobs, an encouraging but still modest number that points to their struggle to fill openings with many Americans still reluctant to return to the workforce.

The drop in the jobless rate, from 4.2% in November, indicated that many more people found work last month. Despite the slight hiring gain reported by businesses, 651,000 more workers said they were employed in December compared with November.

Photo by Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

 

According to the report from the Labor Department, steady hiring is being driven for now by strong consumer demand that hasn’t lagged despite supply shortages. Consumer spending and business purchases of equipment are likely propelling the economy to a robust annual growth rate of roughly 7% in the final three months of 2021. Americans’ confidence in the economy rose slightly in December, according to the Conference Board, suggesting that spending was probably healthy for much of last month.

Wages also rose sharply in December, with average hourly pay jumping 4.7% compared with a year ago. That pay increase is a sign that companies are competing fiercely to fill their open jobs. A record-high wave of quitting, as many workers seek better jobs, is helping fuel pay raises.

But job growth will likely take a big hit this month from the Omicron variant, which has sickened millions of Americans, forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights, reduced traffic at restaurants and bars, and caused some major school systems to close, potentially keeping some parents at home with children and unable to work. Health experts anticipate an “awful” January, with deaths expected to hit nearly 85,000 in the United States.

 

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