U.S. loses 140,000 jobs in December amid COVID-19 spikes


U.S. employers slashed 140,000 jobs in December, the first monthly decline since April 2020, as recent COVID-19 spikes disrupt labor market recovery, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The unemployment rate, which has been trending down over the past seven months, remained unchanged at 6.7 percent, according to the monthly employment report, which indicated a stalled recovery in the labor market amid resurgent pandemic.

"The decline in payroll employment reflects the recent increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and efforts to contain the pandemic," the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said in the report.

Amid widespread COVID-19 shutdowns in March and April last year, 22 million Americans lost their jobs. The latest data showed that the number of unemployed persons in December remained unchanged at 10.7 million, which is about 5 million higher than pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

The unemployment rate in December was down by 8 percentage points from its recent high in April 2020 but is 3.2 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February, the bureau noted.

The report also showed that  growth in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised up by 44,000 to 654,000, and the gain for November was revised up by 91,000 to 336,000.

In December, job losses in leisure and hospitality and in private education were partially offset by gains in professional and business services, retail trade, and construction, the report noted. Employment in leisure and hospitality is declined by 498,000, with three-quarters of the decrease in food services and drinking places, by 372,000. Since February 2020, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 23.2 percent, the report noted.

Employment in private education, meanwhile, decreased by 63,000 in December, the report showed, not-ing that employment in the industry is down by 450,000 since February.

Government employment is declined by 45,000 in December. Since February, government employment overall is down by 1.3 million. The monthly employment report was released two days after payroll data company Automatic Data Processing reported private companies in the country shed 123,000 jobs in December, which also marked the first drop since April.