US employment fell for the first time since April as 140,000 jobs disappeared from payrolls last month, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Compared to February, employment was down by 9.8 million jobs, or 6.5%.
According to the BLS, the December job loss “reflects the recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and efforts to contain the pandemic.”
The US recorded a record 6.3 million new COVID-19 cases and roughly 75,000 related deaths during December, up from 4.3 million new cases and 36,000 deaths in November.
The leisure and hospitality sector lost the most jobs last month, losing 498,000 jobs as restaurants, bars, and recreation centers grappled with the surge in coronavirus transmission and lockdown measures. Compared to February, the sector was down 3.9 million jobs, or 23.2%, in December.
Job losses also occurred in government, education and health services, and other services — including repair services, personal and laundry services, and membership associations such as churches and professional organizations.
Meanwhile, employment rose by 161,000 jobs in the professional and business services sector and 120,500 in retail trade. Construction, transportation and warehousing, manufacturing, and wholesale trades also gained jobs.
The healthcare sector also added jobs in December, with gains in hospitals and ambulatory services offsetting losses in elderly care facilities.
Several other metrics from the December report show the nation’s stalled economic recovery as 2020 ended.
The unemployment rate showed no improvement over the month, hovering at 6.7%. Unemployment was up among teenagers and Hispanic Americans compared to November and remained stagnant for most other groups.
The number of unemployed people also showed no change at 10.7 million — nearly double the 5.7 million unemployed in February. Because of the job losses in the service industry, a larger share of the unemployed were on temporary layoff compared to previous months.
Finally, the labor force participation rate — which measures the percentage of the working-age population that is working or actively seeking work — was unchanged at 61.5%, down from 63.4% in February. Of 100.6 million people not in the labor force in December, 7.3 million reported wanting a job and 4.6 million said they could not look for work because of the pandemic. These groups were not included in the unemployed population because they did not actively seek work in the past month.
For more indicators tracking the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, visit the COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Hub.
Keep up with the latest data and most popular content.