U.S. job growth faltered in December the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report released Friday. Payrolls in December rose by just 199,000, sharply missing the 400,000 jobs consensus forecast by Refinitiv economists.
The latest figure represents the second consecutive month of worse-than-expected growth… The last time job growth was this slow was in December 2020, when employers cut 306,000 positions.
The figures suggest that despite high demand for workers, businesses are still struggling to attract new employees as factors like a lack of childcare, virus fears and large stimulus savings persevere. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.9% as the labor shortage persists, despite the lower-than-expected unemployment drop.
“Today’s jobs report is a disappointing bookend to a historic year in the job market,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor. “The year ended on a sour note, with job gains slowing even more than in November. New and unpredictable waves of COVID-19 variants threaten to throw the recovery into reverse, showing that we’re still at the mercy of the pandemic.”
MacDailyNews Take: Actually, we are at the mercy of the seemingly unending and arbitrary overreactions to the pandemic.
The nation remains 3.6 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
The Federal Reserve has been closely tracking the jobs data… Hawkish minutes released this week from the Fed’s Dec. 14-15 meeting suggest that policymakers are prepared to accelerate the normalization of policy in order to combat the hottest inflation in nearly four decades, including raising interest rates and running down their $8.8 trillion balance sheet.
Stock market futures edged lower after the report, while bond yields were in positive territory though off their highs of the morning. Major indexes turned mixed in early afternoon trading, with the Dow up more than 50 points but tech stocks holding back the Nasdaq and S&P 500.
The data left the total employment level still 2.9 million shy of where it stood in February 2020, before the pandemic declaration. The labor force participation rate is 1.5 percentage points lower, representing a workforce decline of nearly 2.3 million for the period. There were nearly 4 million more jobs than there were unemployed workers through November.
The numbers “suggest that worker shortages were becoming a bigger restraint on employment growth, even before the Omicron surge in infections, which could knock hundreds of thousands off payrolls in January,” wrote Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
In general, human-transmissible coronaviruses do not disappear. There is no such thing as zero-COVID.
COVID-19 is here to stay. It will very likely become endemic, yet pose less danger over time. People will acquire immunity via vaccines (effectiveness TDB) and naturally as they contract and recover from variants like omicron since the partially-effective vaccines permit not only transmissibility, but also breakthrough infections. Influenza and the four human coronaviruses that cause common colds (OC43, 229E, NL63 and HKU1) are, of course, also endemic, but a combination of annual flu vaccines and acquired immunity means that sane societies tolerate the unavoidable seasonal deaths and illnesses they bring without requiring lockdowns, masks, social distancing, indefinite return-to-work delays, etc.
At which point, if ever, will some people decide that wasting away their short lives in abject fear of a bad flu, very likely engineered by China and partially funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in a hysterical self-defeating overreaction?
Adam Gopnik was writing about a different “disaster,” but, going on two years worth of “two weeks to slow the spread,” his words from August 2011 are a rather interesting read in late 2021 and something to bear in mind as you consume “news” media:
[T]he relentless note of incipient hysteria, the invitation to panic, the ungrounded scenarios — the overwhelming and underlying desire for something truly terrible to happen so that you could have something really hot to talk about — was still startling. We call disasters unimaginable, but all we do is imagine such things…
That, you could conclude mordantly, is the real soundtrack of our time: the amplification of the self-evident toward the creation of paralyzing, preemptive paranoia. The real purpose not to get you to do anything, but to get you so scared that all you can do is keep the television, or radio, on. This is obvious, and yet there is something truly helpful, really instructive, about experiencing it again after a month of absence and silence. Two things that ought to be apparent all the time become briefly clear to you again. First, that the media, television particularly, are amplifying devices in which tiny kernels of information become vast, terrifying structures of speculation. The news business is one in which a minimum of news is really given the business.
And second, that the reasons for this are essentially non-ideological; frightened people need news for reassurance, and want to get a more heightened experience by being frightened still more, and the business the people supplying the fright are in (which we’re in too, of course) is not really that of dispensing information but of assembling enough listeners or readers, preferably still caught in that same spirit of credulous attentiveness, to offer to advertisers or keep subscribing. — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, August 28, 2011
— MacDailyNews. Visit and comment @ macdailynews.com (@MacDailyNews) March 9, 2020
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