young business woman applicant and human resources his conversation recruitment procedure in corporation.

It was another month of sluggish job growth — nonfarm payroll increased by only 199,000 jobs in December, after gaining just 249,000 jobs in November (revised), according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Since April 2020, nonfarm employment has gone up by 18.8 million jobs, but it’s still behind its pre-pandemic status by 3.6 million. 

Unemployment rates down for most major worker groups

The overall unemployment rate continued its downward trend in December, dropping from 4.2% to 3.9% and bringing the total unemployed down to 6.3 million people.

All major worker groups experienced decreases in unemployment rates for the month, with the exception of the rate for Black workers, which increased slightly, and teenage workers, which was unchanged:

  • Adult men: 3.6% (3.9% in November)
  • Adult women: 3.6% (3.9% in November)
  • Teenagers: 10.9% (10.9% in November)
  • Black/African American: 7.1% (6.5% in November)
  • Hispanic/Latino: 4.9% (5.2% in November)
  • Asian: 3.8% (3.9% in November)
  • White: 3.2% (3.7% in November)

Small improvements in employment situations

Now totaling 1.7 million, the number of permanent job losers fell by 202,000 in December, but temporary layoffs stayed about the same, accounting for 812,000 people. Long-term unemployment (jobless for 27 weeks or longer) dropped slightly to 2.0 million and now represents 31.7% of the total unemployed. The labor force participation rate remained at 61.9% for the month.

Pandemic-related impacts on employment lessened a little in December. Teleworking inched down from 11.3% to 11.1%, and the number of people unable to work because of business closure or loss decreased from 3.6 million to 3.1 million. People who couldn’t look for work due to the pandemic totaled 1.1 million in December, a slight drop from November.

Leisure and hospitality leads modest job growth

Job gains were minimal across industries in December, with the highest gains in:

  • Leisure and hospitality (+53,000 jobs)
  • Professional and business services (+43,000 jobs)
  • Manufacturing (+26,000 jobs)
  • Construction (+22,000 jobs)
  • Transportation and warehousing (+19,000)

Other industries showed little change, with small losses in retail trade and government employment. 

Average hourly earnings for private nonfarm employees are still on the rise, jumping by $0.19 to $31.31 in December. This average has gone up 4.7% over the past year.