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December Caps Year of Strong, If Turbulent, Job Gains

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Employers added just under 200,000 new jobs in December, including in leisure and hospitality, construction and warehousing, according to the Department of Labor. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent.

That’s a sharp drop from 2021’s monthly average of 537,000 new jobs, after upward revisions to the number of jobs added in October and November, boosting confidence in the economy despite lower-than-expected hirings last month.

“The pace of recovery overall in the job market has been remarkable,” Michael Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a statement. “The economy is at full employment,” Fratantoni added, implying the labor market has recovered from the pandemic. He noted that despite wage hikes, employers are having trouble filling available positions.

Average hourly earnings for private-sector rose in December to $31.31, making for an annual increase of 4.7 percent, according to government data.

Employment in warehousing and storage ended the year above pre-pandemic levels as the industrial property boom showed no signs of slowing. The sector added 5,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs in December for a growth of 181,000 workers since February 2020.

Leisure and hospitality employers added 53,000 jobs last month, with most gains coming from eating and drinking establishments. The industry gained 2.6 million jobs last year, leaving it with 1.2 million, or 7.2 percent, fewer employees than in February 2020.

Construction employment grew by 22,000 in December, and architectural and engineering services added 9,000 jobs. Hiring in retail remained flat.

Prior to the onset of Covid-19 in February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and 5.7 million people were unemployed, compared to 6.3 million people presently.



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