1102 GMT January 20, 2022
Employers in the world’s largest economy added just 210,000 jobs for the month, a steep drop-off from the 546,000 positions created in October and well below economists’ forecasts of 550,000, according to FT.
Despite the slower-than-expected pick-up in November, the unemployment rate fell significantly, dipping 0.4 percentage points to 4.2 percent. Less than six months ago, it hovered closer to 6 percent.
The data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday also showed modest improvement in the number of people employed or looking for a job.
The so-called labour force participation rate, which has stagnated since June 2020, ticked up to 61.8 percent for November from 61.6 percent in October, but is still about 1.5 percentage points lower than the pre-pandemic threshold.
Childcare issues and COVID-related concerns are among the reasons most often cited for holding back people from returning to the workforce — a dynamic that could be exacerbated by the recent emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, warned of this risk in an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday.
Jay Powell, chair of the US central bank, also alluded to it during two days of congressional testimony earlier this week, noting another COVID-19 wave could impede progress in the labour market and worsen supply-chain disruptions.
That could mean more muted employment gains, slower economic activity and even greater uncertainty about inflation, which is running at the fastest pace in 30 years, he said.
Employers have already had to raise wages in order to attract workers amid what has become an acute labour shortage, and average hourly earnings increased again in November.