By Anneken Tappe, CNN Business
American employers added another 210,000 jobs to the economy in November, far fewer than expected, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
It was the smallest number of jobs added to the US economy since December 2020, when the economy actually shed jobs amid a surge in Covid cases. Economists had expected more than double the number of jobs created in November, forecasting a continuation of the buoyant economic recovery over the past two months.
Instead, the November jobs gain was more reminiscent of the pre-pandemic economy, when employers added a smaller but steady number of positions.
Friday’s report was also disappointing because the hires took place before the Omicron variant became a global concern. Some economists expect hiring to slow this month as businesses and employees grapple with the ramifications of the new variant.
Professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction, as well as manufacturing, added the most jobs last month.
The retail sector, however, which should be swelling for the holidays, shed jobs.
“It is not clear if this is a seasonal issue, or some sort of shift in terms of the timing of holiday help, but overall the payroll data does not match up with the alternative indicators of labor market activity that we track,” wrote Thomas Simons, money market economist at Jefferies, in a note to clients.
Simons expected to see either retail or leisure and hospitality payrolls to rise. The latter sector added some jobs, but not many, last month.
However, taking out the seasonal adjustments, the retail sector actually added more than 300,000 jobs. This points to weaker holiday hiring than normal — especially as employers continue to struggle with a shortage of workers — rather than retailers laying people off.
Overall, the economy is still down 3.9 million jobs from its pre-pandemic levels.
Where does this leave the recovery?
In good news, the unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, a new pandemic-era low.
America’s labor force participation rate, which has remained relatively depressed throughout the recovery, edged up to 61.8, the highest level since March 2020.
And while Friday’s main number was decidedly disappointing at first glance, the US economy has added more than 1 million jobs over the past three months, signaling that the recovery continues to move along.
“BLS revisions to job growth in recent months have been upward, and much larger than normal,” said PNC Chief Economist Gus Faucher about the data revisions of the past months. “Thus, the slowing in job growth in November should not be taken at face value.”
The drop in joblessness together with the increase in participation is “unalloyed good news,” Faucher said.
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.