Business

Recruits record annual visits in spite of December slowdown

US hiring moderated in December to end a record year of job gains ahead of disruptions from Omicron variant, with falling unemployment and strong wage growth suggesting the economy is set to grow solidly this year.

Employers added 199,000 jobs in December, below average monthly employment growth of 537,000 in 2021, the Labor Department said Friday. The slowdown in job growth in recent months is largely a reflection of companies’ inability to find workers as the labor supply remains tight, some economists say.

Last month’s payrolls increase added about 6.4 million jobs to the US economy compared with the end of 2020 – a record increase of more than any year – but the country still lacks 3.6 million jobs compared to the end of 2020. with pre-pandemic levels.

The broader economy has regained ground thanks to the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and strong demand from consumers armed with government stimulus measures, who have boosted spending. But the pandemic has also caused setbacks, including an increase in virus cases and supply chain disruptions that have slowed growth.

The labor market, while still recovering from the pandemic, is entering a much better year than it was in early 2021. In recent months, job openings have risen to historic highs and workers Unemployment is at a record rate.

“I think 2022 will still be a very strong year for the labor market and the economy after the disruption of Omicron earlier in the year,” said Julia Pollak, economist at the jobs website.

ZipRecruiter.

Retailers and manufacturers have almost fully recovered from the early stages of the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality employers, which have been particularly hard hit, have made a lot of progress since January last year but are still 7% below pre-pandemic wages.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9% last month from 4.2% in November. Many employers are raising wages as they compete for a limited pool of workers. Average hourly wages rose 4.7% in December from a year earlier, outpacing wage growth of about 3% before the pandemic and playing a role in historically high inflation.

Evidence of a tightening labor market and high inflation is likely to keep Federal Reserve officials on track to lift interest rates from near-zero levels shortly after their policy meeting in October. Three.

Friday’s jobs report documents hiring activity that occurred before the rapidly spreading Omicron variant in late December. Although the variation has affected revenue for some businesses, many people use it. Employers still cling to the workers they have as consumers continue to spend. Unemployment claims, an authorization for layoffs, reached 207,000 last week, near a five-decade low.

Economists say businesses and workers are slowly learning to live with successive waves of the coronavirus pandemic, limiting the economic damage. However, Omicron threaten to temporarily depress the economy through a different mechanism from previous virus waves, causing government restrictions on business and dampening consumer demand. Omicron, by comparison, sends millions of sick workers into quarantine, exacerbating labor shortages. Not enough staff, temporarily closed restaurants, airlines canceling thousands of flights and the public transit system is temporarily shutting down.

In December, about 1.7 million workers were employed but were absent due to illness, the Labor Department said. Pollak estimates that about 4.6 million workers could report sick leave in January if the country recorded an average of one million new coronavirus infections every day during the week of the monthly jobs report survey. January.

Employee absences will likely affect production and slow down service without leading to widespread layoffs. Many economists argue that employers are still in hiring mode because they still have roles to play amid strong consumer demand.

Kayla Gamin of Rockville, Md., wanted a second job to keep busy and help supplement her main income as a government attorney. She said she barely had to look. The 35-year-old had a side gig as a restaurant waitress with her first owner – a high-end sushi restaurant – although her only relevant experience was work. at an ice cream shop a few years ago.

She attributes the ease she finds to the pressing labor needs of companies. “I feel like this is a great time to get a second job,” Ms. Gamin said.

Ms. Gamin makes mixed drinks and serves miso soup, sushi and udon noodles on Saturday and Sunday shifts for $20 to $25 an hour. She plans to earn extra income to help pay off student loans.

The continuing increase in the number of people looking for work can benefit employers who say they are desperate to find workers. Labor force participation was 61.9% in December, lower than pre-pandemic levels of 63.4%

Doug Watts, chief executive officer of Cincinnati-based Metalworking Group, said less government stimulus is a potential factor to help ease labor shortages at the component maker. his metal.

Mr Watts said the strength of e-commerce helped drive more orders last year among Metalworking’s many customers, including transport and logistics companies. When workers were needed, he said, the company hired high school students to help complete its largest project to date, which required the construction of metal slides.

“That really got us through a period where we weren’t sure how we were going to satisfy our customers,” said Watts.

Finding staff, especially those just starting out in the assembly and packaging sectors, has been easier in recent months, possibly due to some workers working outside, Mr. Watts said. margins have exhausted their savings while others pay unemployment benefits. The mechanic now has about 180 employees, up from 160 last spring.

Mr Watts said Omicron had caused mild business disruption: Several Mechanical employees were quarantined earlier this week because of Covid-19. The more pressing concern, he said, is the company will lose workers when it has the ability to do a federal vaccine or testing mandate for employers with at least 100 workers — an initiative face legal uncertainty. Is that rule enforceable? pending before the US Supreme Court.

Mr. Watts said about 55% of Metalworking employees have been vaccinated. He added that he realized how many of his employees were unvaccinated when he offered vaccinations on the spot — and $100

Amazon

or Target gift cards — and only two workers are registered.

To help combat the Omicron variant, the Biden administration is opening more Covid-19 testing sites and providing 500 million home tests to Americans. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez shares why testing is still a sore spot in the US, two years after the pandemic. Photo illustrator: David Fang

Pandemic-related disruptions are a significant impediment for workers entering the workforce — especially the lack of childcare, unpredictable school schedules, and for Older workers may have retired early, fearing infection. The closure of several major omicron-related school districts this week could have adverse effects in the coming weeks, especially if viral loads continue to rise.

Many workers are getting their biggest pay rise in years due to labor shortages. For companies, higher labor costs are impacting at the same time that many people face rising inflation for raw materials and inputs. About 13% of small business owners in a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses said labor costs are their biggest business issue, a 48-year record.

John Culpepper, franchise owner of four Express Employment Professionals locations in Georgia, says median wages have risen sharply. Workers the company staffed in office and light industrial jobs earned an average of $16 an hour in December, up from about $14.50 an hour a year earlier. He said: “Companies increased their pay rates last year to compete with the expansion of federal unemployment benefits.

“They’re not coming back because it’s a competitive market to try and find workers,” Mr Culpepper said.

Write letter for Sarah Chaney Cambon at sarah.chaney@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/december-jobs-report-unemployment-rate-2021-11641513402?mod=pls_whats_news_us_business_f Recruits record annual visits in spite of December slowdown

Ian Walker

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