December 2021 Monthly Job Summary

  • On January 13, 2022

December was a month of jolly memories and merry job seekers as opportunities came for the holidays. Staff Solve strives to assist employers and job seekers with information and process hiring, but the overall economic picture of employment trends in the United States and possible factors involved.

The overall unemployment rate declined by 0.3% to a final 3.9% in December, and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 483,000. Over the year, these measures are down by 2.8% and 4.5 million, respectively. In February 2020, prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and unemployed persons numbered 5.7 million. Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers, at 1.7 million by the end of November, declined by 202,000 over the month of December. The number of persons on temporary layoff was little changed while the number on temporary layoff has essentially returned to its February 2020 level. The number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, declined by 185,000 in December. The long-term unemployed accounted for 31.7% of the total unemployed in December. 

The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.9% in December but remains 1.5% lower when compared to data in February 2020. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.2% to 59.5% in December, but is 1.7% below its February 2020 level. Those employed part-time for economic reasons, at 3.9 million in December, decreased by 337,000 over the month. The over-the-year decline of 2.2 million brings this measure to 461,000 below its February 2020 level. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was little changed at 5.7 million in December. This measure decreased by 1.6 million over the year but is 717,000 higher than in February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job. 

In December, the share of employed persons who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic was 11.1%, little changed when comparing the data from a month previous. In December, 3.1 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic–that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the 4 weeks preceding the survey due to the pandemic. Among those who reported that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 15.9% received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 199,000 in December. Job growth averaged 537,000 per month in 2021. Nonfarm employment has increased by 18.8 million since April 2020 but is down by 3.6 million, or 2.3 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. In December, employment continued to trend up in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing. Leisure and hospitality continued to grow in December (+53,000), adding 2.6 million jobs in 2021. Employment in food services and drinking places rose by 43,000, professional and business services by 43,000, computer systems design and related services increased by 10,000, architectural and engineering services by 9,000, and scientific research and development services by 6,000. 

Manufacturing added 26,000 jobs in December, primarily in durable goods industries. A job gain in machinery (+8,000) reflected the return of workers from a strike. Construction rose by 22,000 in December, following monthly gains averaging 38,000 over the prior 3 months. In December, job gains occurred in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+13,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+10,000). Transportation and warehousing increased by 19,000 for the month, with job gains occurring in support activities for transportation (+7,000), air transportation (+6,000), and warehousing and storage (+5,000). Employment for couriers and messengers was essentially unchanged. Since February 2020, employment in transportation and warehousing is up by 218,000, reflecting job growth in couriers and messengers (+202,000) and in warehousing and storage (+181,000).

Wholesale trade increased by 14,000 with mining following by adding 7,000 jobs. There was little or no change in other major industries for December, including retail trade, information, financial activities, health care, other services, and government. 

The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 19 cents to $31.31. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.7%. For private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, average hourly earnings rose by 18 cents to $26.61. The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.7 hours in December. Manufacturing changed, with their average workweek decreasing by 0.1 hour to 40.3 hours and overtime decreasing by 0.1 hour to 3.2 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls had a slight increase of 0.1 hour to a total 34.2 hours. 

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised up by 102,000, from 546,000 to 648,000, and the change for November was revised up by 39,000, from 210,000 to 249,000. With these revisions, employment in October and November combined is 141,000 higher than previously reported. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.

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