Job Growth Disappoints in November With Only 210,000 Jobs Added
Employers added only 210,000 jobs in November, well below expectations for a stellar end to the year, the Labor Department reported on Friday.
Job gains were strongest in the professional and business services sector, as well as in the transportation industry.
“It is unsettling to see that we were unable to build on October’s strong numbers, with uncertainty only set to increase as the winter progresses,” said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. “That said, it is not completely surprising that this month fell short with the country preparing to respond to the COVID-19 Omicron variant and continuing to battle rising inflation and the ongoing supply chain crisis.”
While the number was unexpectedly low, preliminary estimates have been revised sharply upward in recent months. The emergence of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus may have been a factor, as well as seasonality and difficulty that employers are having finding workers.
“Great candidates have multiple options right now,” says John Gulnac, vice president of search at staffing firm Adecco. “We saw this pre-pandemic and it’s back.”
Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association, says companies are taking advantage of a strong economy with robust consumer demand to “stock their talent benches” and rewrite their firm’s hiring processes and requirements. “Our members have a very high level of confidence in the strength of the economy.”
The report covers a period largely before the omicron variant emerged as a threat to the global economy, but so far cases have reportedly only resulted in mild symptoms. Earlier this year, when the delta variant became prominent, the economy did slow down but has since picked up. And what were seen at the time as poor jobs numbers were revised sharply upward
President Joe Biden has prioritized an aggressive response to omicron, including imposing new travel restrictions for persons entering the country, but vaccines are also more widespread, though a significant percentage of the population has shown opposition or hesitancy toward taking them.
While Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said omicron poses a threat to continued job growth and the economy in general, the central bank is proceeding with its plans announced in early November to cut back on its $120-billion-per-month purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds. Both were put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic but are now seen as too stimulative to an economy that is expected to post 5% or better annual growth this year.
“The economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are high, and it is therefore appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases…perhaps a few months sooner,” Powell said in testimony to Congress earlier this week.