The total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 199,000 in December as the unemployment rate decreased to 3.9%, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to trend upward as well as professional and business services, manufacturing, construction and in transportation and warehousing. In February 2020 there were 152.5 million jobs, in December 2021 there are still -3.6 million unrecovered jobs. Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate stood at 3.5% with 5.7 million unemployed persons while in December the rate remains 0.3 points higher, and unemployed people total 6.3 million. With the slow employment recovery, unemployment rates have lowered for adult men (3.6), women (3.6) and white men (3.2) while for teenagers (10.9), Blacks (7.1), Asians (3.8), and Hispanics (4.9) showed little or no change over the month. Considering that job gains in November were 249,000, December gains are considered slow even though compared to historical levels the recovery is significant. This is consistent with the omicron variant surge which ignited hospitalizations and has kept people home from work prompting more uncertainty. Officials of the Federal Reserve Bank have signalled that they will not wait for the labor market to recover to pre-pandemic levels to raise interest rates. These officials have said that amid the highest inflation rates in 40 years there is an urgency to control prices. While the employment has improved, millions have left the labor market and are not being counted in the official unemployment rate, most of them have retired as they are older. The pandemic waves and surges are hard to predict, all projections for gains in the next year are highly dependent on the pandemic cases.
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