The U.S. labor market recovery faltered in December with the first decline in payrolls in eight months, as soaring coronavirus infections exacted a bigger toll on jobs and jeopardized the economy's progress.
Non-farm payrolls decreased by 140,000 from the prior month and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7%, the Labor Department said Friday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for a 50,000 increase in employment and a jobless rate of 6.8%.
A new virus strain that led to new or extended lockdowns in the U.K. and Germany has been identified in the U.S., and if states or localities implement broader shutdowns, there could be more layoffs in the coming months.
The pace of hiring will be hard pressed to accelerate until a meaningful portion of the general population is vaccinated, with distribution in the U.S. running slower than planned and potentially holding back the recovery. Those getting vaccinated are essential workers or the elderly — people that either have already been working through the pandemic or are retired — which doesn't lead to job gains in the immediate term.