The latest report reflected a bit of caution on the part of employers as the U.S. — and the world — seeks to recover from Covid-19. The prospects are now infused with even more uncertainty because of the emergency of the Omicron variant, which could further delay employers’ plans to get workers back into offices.
According to the release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of those who teleworked declined by 0.3 percent during the month, to 11.3%.
The job gains were most significant in in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, and manufacturing. But retail employment actually declined by 20,000 during the month, according to the data. Employment in leisure and hospitality also was little changed.
Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, increased by 8 cents to $31.03.
Analysts had been expecting job gains of around 500,000 following last month’s blockbuster report. The number of people applying for weekly jobless aid fell during the month, in what was viewed as a potential sign of huge gains in hiring. In fact, last week, the number of people filing for new claims fell to their lowest level since 1969.
Much of the media focus heading into the holiday shopping season, meanwhile, has not been on retailers unwilling to fill jobs but of their problems in finding workers to take them. And consumer sentiment reflects major worries over inflation, as the pandemic has scrambled supply chains.
Jason Furman, a Harvard professor who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter, “Weird jobs numbers. Very strong household survey: unemployment down to 4.2% & labor force participation up as employment up 1.1 million. But the normally more reliable payroll survey shows only 210K jobs added. Some explanations may emerge but it may just be measurement error.”
Rana Foroohar, CNN global economic analyst, said of the mixed signals, “It’s really. really hard to tell where we are, and that is typical in pandemics.”
Last month, BLS actually revised numbers significantly upward from reports during the summer.
At the White House, President Joe Biden emphasized the increase in wages this year. “Americans on average have more in their pockets today than they did each month since we have been in office, than they did last year, accounting for inflation.”